Dry Days Prompt Concern Over River Flows & Water Supply - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Dry Days Prompt Concern Over River Flows & Water Supply

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Runoff from the snowpack already peaked last month. But the federal Water Master is not sounding any alarms, at least not yet. We asked Chad Blanchard if he was concerned. He told us, "You know, not at this point. We really would like to see some precipitation right now."

Wouldn't we all. After a 2nd dry winter in a row, you'd expect to see some water supply worries, especially since the seasonal flows today are at the lowest they've been since 1988. As Blanchard put it, "The river flows are going to be lower, earlier. Today we have more like a late June flow in the river right now, when the snowmelt is typically done."

For now, looks are deceiving. Yes, things the Truckee is flowing at a good clip...but the snowmelt has reached its peak already. This year, most of the winter precipitation came early in the season and a limited amount came down later. A lot of that later season water never made it into the river…much of it was soaked in by the very dry ground upstream. As Blanchard put it, "That snow melted. It didn't make it to the streams. It was soaked into the ground and lost."

He would like to see a turnaround from some wet storms, but it's already too late. The traditionally wet months are over…many dry days are ahead. At least the reservoirs are still in good shape. Lake Tahoe reservoir storage is at 50% of capacity....Boca, 63%, Stampede 72% and Donner at 82%. Water releases from these should keep up river flows going through summer.

But there is some concern. Because of its huge surface area, Lake Tahoe loses about half its storage, about 40 inches a year, to evaporation. If the rain doesn't come and Tahoe slips below its natural rim, the flow into the Truckee is cut off. Blanchard doesn't see that happening this summer. But he also told us, "At the end of the year, if we don't receive a decent winter next year, you know...things will change."

And certainly not for the better.

-written by John Potter

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