Years of Drought Shrink Area Reservoirs, Threaten Farmers and Fish

FALLON, NV - Lahontan Reservoir near Fallon seems to be dwindling into a mere puddle.

The dam's intake tower stands high above the few inches of water remaining at its base.

Weeds grow where months ago fish swam and boats floated.

Truckee River water diverted at Derby Dam and brought here by canal still flows into the lake, but now it falls a good 20 feet to the water below.

Down here, fishermen cast lines and pelicans lurk around the ever shrinking pool.

Downstream, the irrigation canals that deliver Lahontan's water to Fallon area farms are still full, but not for long.

About 13 thousand acre feet of water remain in the reservoir, when that approaches a minimum pool of 4-thousand, the Truckee Carson Irrigation District will cut-off further service.

That's not the emergency it may seem. Farmers here were told to expect about 75 percent of their normal allotment this year. They've expected and planned for a short year. Their fields will see a fairly normal yield of alfalfa.

Back at the lake, it's anything but normal.

"It's sad and shocking," says Irene Aguilera, who's been coming here since she was a child. "I never thought I'd see it like this."

The swimmers and boaters are long gone. They usually are by this time of year, but fishermen and women like Aguilera are still drawn here by the lake's bass and catfish.

Cesar Verde makes the trip from Carson City and takes home several wipers and a couple of big Channel cats. Still, he too is worried.

AT the moment the low water may be concentrating the remaining fish, making it easier on him and easier, especially, on the pelicans patrolling off shore.

But "The fish," he says, "need water."

And this fishery is in jeopardy. Officials at the Department of Wildlife say with cooling temperatures and TCID's plans to leave some water in the lake, they're not expecting a big fish kill, but like the farmers downstream they're nervous about what the next few months will bring.

There won't be any relief of course until this winter's snowfall and next spring's runoff.

If we get another dry year, one wildlife official told us "You might be doing this story again, only next June rather than September."

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