Closing Irrigation Ditches Hurts Businesses

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RENO, Nev. -- This year's dry winter is now taking a toll on local businesses. Starting next week, the Federal Water Master will close all irrigation ditches and diversions from the Truckee River and businesses will have to find other sources for water.

For 143 years, families have been going up to Mountain View Cemetery to visit a loved one.

"We come up here at least 5, 6 times a year. We come up to visit my mom. She passed away in 2006," Robert Benzie, a visitor said.

While they pay their respects, the cemetery maintenance crews are watering up to 60 acres of lawn every day to preserve it.

"It's nice for [families] to come to grassed areas versus dead grass or just dirt," Charles Stegmeir, a family counselor from Mountain View Cemetery said.

However, now they'll have to cut back. Early last week, they received a letter from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) warning them that all irrigation ditches and diversions from the Truckee River will be closed.

"We're kind of at their mercy," Stegmeir sad. "We do the best we can and we do try, and we are out here diligently."

It's two months earlier than the cemetery expected, but this year's drought brought the worst stream flow in 100 years of recorded history, drying up the reservoir storage by the end of July.

"It kind of sucks, you know?" Benzie said. "It's going to be rough if it gets really brown, but understandable because it's such a big area."

80% of the cemetery's water comes from an irrigation ditch, now, it has to rely solely on well water to keep the lawns maintained, which won't be cheap.

"It gets expensive for us to do it," Stegmeir said. "We can continue to water in our most troubled areas or new areas that we're trying to get grass established and the older stuff that is established can endure a little more."

"It's beautiful up here. I think it's a beautiful spot," Benzie said. "I'm glad this is where we've chosen to bury our family members and hopefully next year it will get better."