Summer gets drier- and drier
Barely six weeks left in the water year, and the drought conditions at Lake Tahoe and northern Nevada appear more dire.
The precipitation level taken at Tahoe City stands at 52 percent of normal, which is 31.5 inches, the federal water master’s office reported Wednesday. July’s precipitation amounted to 0.00. Normal is 0.33.
The lowest water year on record taken on the West Shore was 27 percent of normal.
Reno’s water year to date has been recorded as 30 percent of average with only 2.04 inches reported since the beginning of the season in October.
The drought factor accentuates an unusually dry season in which the lake level has dropped to within 5 feet of the lowest ever recorded in November 1992 at 6,220 feet, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s office reported.
Climatologists, hydrologists and meteorologists have been scrambling to gauge the consequences of back-to-back dry seasons.
“The fire potential is as great as we’ve seen in a long time,” climatologist Kelly Redmond said from the Western Regional Climate Center. “The only reason we haven’t had a bad fire season is we haven’t seen the fire triggers.”
One saving grace could be the possibility of Tahoe entering another 2- to 7-year El Nino cycle that produced the New Year’s floods of 1997 as Redmond predicts. But even then, the tropical weather phenomenon presents no guarantee of a wet winter.
“If next year is dry, we’re in a lot of trouble,” Nevada climatologist John James said, listing problems affecting the fire danger, tourism and water supply.
It seems South Tahoe Public Utility District officials are preparing for the worst as well.
Although no wells have gone dry on the system, STPUD spokesman Dennis Cocking said the district may explore conducting a rate study this winter that will determine whether to go to a metered system or not. He estimates a study would amount to about $25,000.
The district has met the demand this summer, “but another dry winter could be a whole other ball game,” Cocking said. “We’ve tried every form of water conservation, and every year we’ve seen an increase in demand.”
Landscape irrigation drives the demand for water production in Tahoe.
“It’s a double-edged sword because the greenbelts look so good,” he said.
He suggests that conservation must be tied to a household user’s pocketbook to make a dent in the water supplies.
Cocking predicts the state will eventually require agencies operate metered systems.
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