Regional water system one idea to meet needs
November 6, 2005
If water is gold, then the mine that is the Carson River is just about played out.
“We have to use the water we have,” said Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy District. “Demand for water is not going away. We have to figure out how we’re going to meet these needs.”
The best way to get enough water to meet the demand is to create a regional water system that covers the entire Carson River system from the headwaters to the Lahontan reservoir, he said.
“This is not new,” he said. “Moving water in a regional planning process has been going on for a long time. But this is new to this area.”
James said the Carson River Basin didn’t have the storage capacity the Truckee River system had, so communities from Alpine County in California to Churchill County needed to come up with new ideas on how to make the water go around.
“Everything we administer except when you get to Lahontan, everything depends on Mother Nature,” he said. “And every drop of water is fully allocated. There is no free water in this system.”
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While Carson City has enough water to meet its annual needs, it often has difficulty meeting peak demands, James said. And Dayton Valley and Churchill County water rights were already over appropriated.
Thanks to its agriculture, the Carson Valley is like a sponge, James said, with more water flowing back into the river than flows from it. He said Carson Valley might be able to help Carson City and other communities meet their peak demands through a pipeline system.
Garry Stone, federal water master, noted the difference between needs now and in the past.
“In 1965, 95 percent of the people at a meeting like this were farmers,” he said. “Today, representing the change, most of you are agency people and people interested in other facets than irrigation.”
He said the river has gone from serving 100 percent agricultural needs to serving industrial, residential, recreational and wildlife needs.
James and Stone were among 18 speakers at the 2005 Carson River Symposium on Friday at the Plaza Hotel in Carson City.
Developer Dwight Millard told the 170 people assembled that a requirement to find water for developments – as many counties insist before plans can go forward – places a huge burden on builders.
“We have to deal with bringing water to the table as a requirement to building a development,” he said. “We’re learning it’s very difficult to try to do this.”
He cited the cost of water rights is often added to the price of a home.
“When you add $1,000 to a home, you leave out 100,000 buyers,” he said.
Millard also said large developers can afford to buy water rights, but those building 10 units a year, or the single builder of a restaurant or other business, face an uphill battle.
James sought to reassure people that the concept of regional water management was to assure enough water to go around, not to take needed water from a community.
“This is not to terrorize people that Godzilla is coming and going to take their water,” he said. “A regional system is more of piecing together water with different means and different opportunities. We’re breaking new ground.”
James said a regional water system would enhance water supply reliability, enhance fire protection, improve water quality, benefit the environment provide lower costs to communities and protect agriculture.
“Agriculture is the key to all these other things we’re providing here,” he said.
James also mentioned Marlette Lake, where Virginia and Carson cities get water, could be used to assist the Carson River district with its water needs. James also gave a scenario where one day it may be possible to build a pipeline to take water from Douglas County during its peak availability through Carson City, Mound House, Dayton and on to Stagecoach where it can be stored in a huge underground aquifer. Then a pipeline could be run from Stagecoach to serve Silver Springs.
“Pooling is the only way we’re going to meet our needs,” he said. “We don’t have the answers today, but if we don’t start talking about these answers today we’re not going to be prepared for tomorrow.”
James was optimistic that the challenges could be overcome.
“In the early years it was mining versus agriculture,” he said. “They resolved that and we can resolve this.”