Truckee Meadows Water Outlook - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Truckee Meadows Water Outlook

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Because of another relatively dry winter, experts say water levels in the Truckee River are lower, once again.

"We saw poor stream flows throughout April, which is leading us to believe the runoff is very inefficient, thus overall, leading to lower spring runoff," says Beau Uriona, Hydrologist with The Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has 75 stations throughout the mountain areas measuring the snowpack, and they found the conditions were similar to last year, if not, worse.

"We're looking to be in an even bigger drought than we initially expected," Uriona said.

We asked him about the water levels in the Lake Tahoe reservoirs.

"Yes, we do have storage in reservoirs, but this year, the reservoirs are very, very low," he said. "We don't expect them to fill much at all this year."
The Truckee Meadows Water Authority serves the Reno area and says they won't ask their customers to do anything at this time, but they encourage being responsible about conserving water, and Uriona agrees.

"We'll likely not see any rationing of water, but we will see agricultural water being reduced and we're already starting to see that now."

Tough news for some local farmers.

"What we're seeing is, a reduced amount of crops are going to be planted," said Bob Conrad, Public Information Officer for the Nevada Department of Agriculture. "The availability of water is going to basically hinder all agricultural operations in the state, as far as we can tell at this point."

Mewaldt Organics grows things like basil and parsley for the Great Basin Community Food Co-op along with different restaurants around the area. The owner, William Mewaldt, has owned the farm in Fallon since 1984. He's seen others struggle in the area because of the lack of moisture.

"We're dependent on the canal system that brings us water," he said. "Fallon doesn't get much rain, and so we depend on the snowpack from the Sierras. ...This year, (other farmers are) only getting about 50 percent of the water that they normally get. So, the farmers here plan for that. Some of them are only planning for 50 percent of their crops."

Mewaldt says his farm, in particular, will be okay for now because he uses water from his private stock.

"So, we're okay this year," he said. "But, if the drought continues by next year, we will all be in trouble because then the water table will start to drop, and I'll be in trouble."

Off of Mill Street in Reno, Avanzino Farms uses water from the Truckee River to irrigate crops, but the lower levels are causing them to change their planting schedule.

"Here, we're going to have our water turned off about a month earlier than we usually do," said Doug Avanzino, owner of the farm. "So, I'm going to have to plant my crops earlier, and there's some stuff I'm not going to plant, or I'll move to where I have wells, but here, I get the water from the Truckee. ...I plant a lot of summer squash, and I plant different rotations of it. This year, I'm going to have, like, two rotations. I usually have four rotations. So, I'm probably going to lose three weeks to a month of harvest."

He says he expects to take a financial hit from his Mill Street location.

"My main crops I don't plant here," Avanzino said. "I plant where I have wells, but here, where I grow my summer squash, I'm going to lose about half my profit because I'll have half the yield I usually have."

In turn, the Nevada Department of Agriculture it's been causing prices to go up on not just vegetables, but things like milk and beef because of the drought affecting crops for cow feed.

"There will be product availability, but the prices are going to see an increase in prices in the supermarket," Conrad said.

He says if there is a positive to the drought, it's that it makes people more conscious about water conservation.

"People will become more water-wise, and farmers as well," he said. "So, what we are seeing is in the last 10 to 20 years is that farmers in Nevada are becoming more conscious of water and planting low-water-use crops and things like that. They're taking advantage of the drought by being more conservative with their water use. Therefore, when there is more water availability, they can actually increase profits in some instances."

Conrad says there are federal programs available to many farmers who are affected by the drought.

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