Storms Paused Drought Only Slightly

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RENO, NV - We have seen a lot of rain this summer. There has been a higher than average occurrence of thunderstorms, and last week a rainstorm that lasted three days. It's leaving many asking: has this weather made a difference on our drought situation?

Simply put, no, these storms have not been a drought-buster, but the recent weather pattern has made a difference. It has stopped the situation from getting worse, if only for a little while.

"The recent rains of this week and last week have been a tremendous help for us," said John Erwin, Director of Natural Resources for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA).

TMWA says the extra rain has supplemented Truckee River flows so much that it hasn't been tapping into drought reserves.

"We have been able to capture some of this rainfall and slowly meter it out over the past week or so," said Erwin.

On top of that, the demand for water has gone down. The rains have kept people from watering their outdoor plants, which saved TMWA about 200 million gallons a week. That is more than enough water to supply 800 homes for a year.

But on Tahoe, have the rains made a difference? Filled the lake at all? That's a complex question.

"Tahoe is hanging in there much better than we expected, and primarily due to the cloud cover," said Chad Blanchard, Federal Water Master.

According to TMWA, on average 219 million gallons of water evaporates off Lake Tahoe daily. It's the lake's biggest loss of water.

"Solar radiation has not been that much of a factor so evaporation levels have been really low. Plus we have some precip(itation) on the surface," said Blanchard.

Because of this, the lake level has not been dropping as quickly as expected. The water master suggests it means Tahoe won't drop below its natural rim as early as was expected. It may even happen as late as October.

"It's really helping the river stay up at this point too," said Blanchard.

This has all been good news but we are by no means out of the woods. Officials at TMWA expect we will be dipping into our drought reserves again by Friday. The relief has only been temporary, and our drought situation continues.