A version of this editorial first appeared in Wednesday’s Record-Courier.
Are we at the tail end of a six-year drought or the beginning of a 40-year-drought?
That’s the question posed by Carson Water Subconservancy Director Ed James when discussing the future of precipitation in Western Nevada.
We know it’s dry. We are supposed to have 4.93 inches of precipitation by this time of the year on average. This year we have 2.26 inches.
As of Tuesday, the snow water equivalent is at 3 percent of median in the Carson River Basin with a third of the nine sensor stations reading no snow at all.
While the Sierra got about half its average precipitation, a warm winter has already melted most of the snow. That means Carson Valley irrigators are going to be short surface water.
While most Carson Valley humans don’t drink surface water, we do rely on it to recharge the aquifer and to keep the Valley green. Ranchers with access to treated effluent will be able to irrigate their fields. And those with supplemental groundwater rights will be pumping this summer to make up some of the difference.
This is the sixth multi-year drought in the past 90 years, according to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
Our last long dry spell was the drought that hit in the late 1980s and stuck around into the early 1990s, which is the last time Washoe Lake dried up.
While scientists are trying, making it rain is still pretty much beyond our technical expertise as a culture.
We can’t know what will happen with the weather over the next few years, so all we can do is conserve water, and pray for rain.