Truckee River Flows at Risk for Summer

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RENO, NV - There are growing concerns we're heading toward a major water shortage. We're halfway through the month of January and parts of our region have only received 5% of the precipitation that usually falls in this month. December was also dry with a little over 20% of average rainfall.

Water experts say the Truckee is already at a reduced flow and it will get worse as our reservoirs dry up.

All of that water flowing in the Truckee has to come from somewhere, but its sources are drying up quickly. Boca is not looking good and the storage area at Lake Tahoe is nearly depleted.

"We are basically out of water in those reservoirs at this time or very close to it," said Chad Blanchard, Federal Water Master.

Storage on Tahoe has dwindled to 1/12th of capacity and Boca is at 1/8th capacity.

"If we don't start receiving some precip then we are going to be looking at some rough conditions as far as flows," said Blanchard.

It's reminiscent of the situation in August 1994 when a four-mile stretch of the Truckee dried up. That won't happen this year because of protections for fish, but it could get close.

"It will be an absolute trickle but it will be much lower than people are used to," said Blanchard.

"We've been here before; we have seen dry years before and we're still hopeful. We're only a third of the way through the winter season," said Bill Hauck, Senior Hydrologist with TMWA.

Hauck is keeping a close eye on our water supply. Where we may have issues in the river, he says we'll still have enough water at home.

"We have a 9-year drought reserve in place right now between Donner Lake, Independence Lake, Boca and Stampede reservoirs and we are fully prepared to weather 9 years of dry conditions or 9 years of drought.

Most of that reserve would still flow along the Truckee River but be taken out and west of town and treated, leaving little behind to flow through town.

We're so far behind now that average amounts for the next few months won't cut it. We need above average rainfall. It has happened before and it saved us. In 1989, the term Miracle March was coined when the rain finally came.