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Half-empty upstream reservoirs no immediate worry to TMWA customers

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:23 PM PDT
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BOCA RESERVOIR, Ca. (KOLO) -Years of drought have left local reservoirs low and the Truckee River, a mere trickle. So, facing another winter with fingers crossed, how concerned should we be?

Up here at Boca Reservoir it certainly looks concerning. Others in the system look much the same. But these half empty lakes with broad shorelines don’t tell the whole story. Most of what you see belongs to those of us living in the Reno Sparks area or to be more precise to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. It’s what will be coming out of the sprinkler systems we just turned off, next spring.

“It’s the community’s upstream drought reserve,” says TMWA’s Andy Gephardt. “Right now we have about 50-thousand acre feet of storage. Bu comparison in 2015, the driest year on record we had 28-thousand acre feet of storage.”

Looking at it that way, Gephardt says, we’re not in bad shape, at least not as bad as we might imagine. But this is--as he said our drought reserves that we’re drawing on. It’s there to keep the community covered in times like these, but of course none of this is where we want to be.

None of the water flowing in the Truckee today is coming from the system’s biggest reservoir. Lake Tahoe has fallen to its rim. And at Flouriston where the Truckee’s flow is measured it’s a mere fraction of what it should be. The measurement here determines much of what else happens, who gets what, when and how much throughout the Truckee River system.

When the flow falls below a determined rate, water is released from upstream storage to maintain it, as long as it can. Storage upstream stops and while our community can draw on those reserves, other users--agriculture, recreation--are left short. It’s a complicated system governed by law.

So, while there’s little worry your faucet or sprinklers may run dry next year, there’s still every reason to hope for a big winter.

”If we don’t then we’ll rely on more drought reserves than this year and sooner or later we really need a winter.”

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