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November 28, 2011
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Tahoe/Truckee water levels hit sweet spot ahead of winter

LAKE TAHOE — Following a near-record-breaking winter, water supplies in Northern California and Nevada have struck a balance between not enough and too much, according to regional water managers.“We're looking pretty good for both supply and having some room going into winter,” said Chad Blanchard, chief deputy water master for the U.S. District Court Water Master.Lake Tahoe has come down 1.28 feet since it peaked Aug. 4. About four-fifths of the drop has come from evaporation, which has been bolstered by high winds this fall, Blanchard said.On Wednesday, Lake Tahoe's water level was four feet above the natural rim, leaving two feet of available storage capacity.Boca, Stampede and Prosser Creek reservoirs — flood control reservoirs for the Truckee River — are also each below required flood control capacities, Blanchard said.And given last winter's abundant snowfall, water supplies should be adequate for next summer even without a reprise, Blanchard said.The sentiment was echoed by Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin in a statement this week.“We are off to a promising start for next year's water supply,” Cowin said. “We are cautious not to be overly optimistic, but last winter's near-record snowpack and rainfall promises that even average precipitation this winter should give us adequate supplies for our farms, cities and businesses.”With another La Nia predicted into 2012, there has been plenty of talk about another big winter.La Nia is associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and portends cooler, wetter weather in the northern U.S. and a warmer, drier south. Lake Tahoe's central latitude makes predicting the local effects of the phenomenon problematic.“This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations,” according to NOAA. “Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.”A less predictable Arctic Oscillation is a “wild card” in the mix and could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures, according to the federal agency.Blanchard said he initially expected more precipitation by this time in the year because of La Nia. The fact that the lake has not risen yet is “unusual,” he added.But only time will tell what the winter holds in store.“Obviously it has been dry, but we have the whole winter yet to go,” Blanchard said. “Our biggest months are yet to come.”

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 28, 2011 01:15PM Published Nov 28, 2011 01:14PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.