Over a century ago, our region was characterized by booms and busts in gold and silver. Now it’s water – last year hit the motherload with snowfall in the Sierra for the record books. This year – so far – has been a bust, with the second driest December on record in the northern Sierra – the driest for Reno in 130 years.
While Wetlab’s work is water quality, as a part of the region we’re all watching water quantity too. Reno and Sparks depend on the snowfall in the Sierra slowly melting in the spring and coming down the Truckee River. So no snow has some people concerned.
The first snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources happened just after the first of the year in the Sierra.
The results weren’t surprising to anybody looking up at the bare mountains above Northern Nevada: 21 percent of normal water content for Jan. 3, and 8 percent of where we want to be by April 1, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
The National Integrated Drought Information System rates much of Northern Nevada between “abnormally dry” and “Drought – moderate” and the Northern Sierra to the west in “Drought – Severe” as of January 10.
The good news, according to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, is there is still plenty of water for its customers, according to a report on KOLO News.
“We know we can withstand at least a nine year drought,” Senior Hydrologist Bill Hauck said to KOLO.
Last year’s huge snowfall helped, leaving enough water stored in Lake Tahoe and area reservoirs for the community, he said.
The dry spell could still effect Northern Nevada residents in the costs of food as scarce water has affected agriculture, according to the report.
And the dry weather put firefighters on high alert during a red flag warning on Sunday when the wind picked up, according to the National Weather Service.
The culprit has been a large high pressure front blocking storms and sending them both to the north and the south since around Thanksgiving.
But things have started to change this week, with a the high pressure front being displaced north and a cold front moving into our region, according to the Weather Service.
“A short period of light to moderate rain should spill into the most populated areas by late Thursday afternoon,” according to the forecast discussion. “The strongest storm is still on track to affect the region Friday thru (sic) Saturday. Confidence is quite high for a period of heavy precipitation in eastern California and far western Nevada as subtropical moisture plume with 1.5 inches PW values points straight at the Sierra.”
Let’s hope the trend continues as the winter progresses, and the winter turns into another strong one!