Drought Continues Into New Year - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Drought Continues Into New Year

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If the snow levels continue at this rate, it will be the driest three year period since 1990-92.

But officials say they're not concerned because it doesn't take much to turn things around.

More than two years of dry weather is obvious at Lake Tahoe.

Below average snowfall has lake levels about seven inches from its natural rim.

"In a dry period like we're experiencing now, we might get a foot rise in the lake or a foot-and-a-half," John Erwin, Truckee Meadows Water Authority Director of Natural Resources said. "In those heavy snow pack years, we can get anywhere from 3.5 to a six foot rise in one snow season."

The latest snowpack in the Lake Tahoe basin is 33% of average and the Truckee River Basin is just 23%.

While that doesn't help lake levels it takes a shorter amount of time to fill it than it does to drain it.

Lake Tahoe rose 4.5 feet in just six months in 2011.

"If we start with a full reservoir, as we did in 2010-11 period, slowly it takes about three to four years to get down to the rim because during that period, there's always some amount of snow that comes in," Erwin said.

The drought is also affecting storage in reservoirs.

And while low precipitation is continuing, history shows that this type of pattern is fairly common.

"It may end in a month," Erwin said. "It may continue another year. We're in our second, possibly heading into the third or fourth year. Generally, they don't go much farther than that."

Despite the low snowpack and falling water levels, officials aren't concerned about water supply.

Especially, since the snow season usually lasts until April.

"We're just on a monitor and watch mode," Erwin said. "Just trying to figure out what we have coming towards us. We make our plans to accommodate these kinds of swings in cycles."

Dry periods historically last between three to six years. But usually one of those years has heavy snow, putting water supply back on track.

TMWA officials say water demand in the Truckee Meadows is dropping.

Single family households are using between 30,000 to 50,000 gallons of water per year less than they did in the early 1990s.

Written by Paul Nelson
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