After years of drought, Lovelock area ranchers enjoy a rare problem

Published: Mar. 27, 2017 at 5:38 PM PDT
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Rye Patch Reservoir sits near the end of the Humboldt River's slow, winding journey across northern Nevada. This is the next to the last stop for whatever water makes it this far, a last chance for man to use its meager flow before it empties into the Humboldt Sink.

Rye Patch catches the Humboldt and holds it for the ranches south of there in the Lovelock area.

In recent years, more often than not, it's been able to send a mere trickle downstream to the fields.

Yearly allotments have been fractions of each rancher's legal share. Last year it was 33 percent, but previously it dipped as low as 15, even one year, just 4 percent.

That left ranchers with a bitter choice, often irrigating a fraction of their best land for what they could get, letting the remainder go fallow.

This season, our wet winter has delivered a water year unlike any in recent memory.

Today the reservoir is about half full, but forecasts say it will eventually receive twice its capacity."

So, just like their counterparts in Fallon, the local water district has been releasing water downstream to make room for what will be coming.

They will be storing as much as they can even making use of an auxiliary reservoir, Pitt-Taylor, which has been mostly dry in recent years.

They're already irrigating, but inevitably some is ending up where nature intended, in the Humboldt Sink.

A fraction of that lost excess in most of the recent years would have made the difference for ranchers who must now reseed and fertilize land they were forced to let go dry and fallow. That can cost as much as $400 or more per acre.

The gamble is--as always--that the investment will pay off in the long run.

For now, it looks like a sure thing.

This year everyone will get a full 100-percent share of course and, if things work as they should, the spring runoff should be enough to ensure a full irrigation season next year--even if we drop back into a drought.