Reno-area water users urged to cut use 10 percent in drought

RENO — The lowest Sierra snowpack in more than a century means more cutbacks for Reno-area water users and offers no relief from four years of drought, officials said.

The Truckee River Basin snowpack was 27 percent of normal earlier this week, while the Lake Tahoe Basin’s snowpack measured at only 9 percent.

“This year, it’s going to be considerably worse,” water supply director Bill Hauck told the utility’s board of directors during a drought briefing on Wednesday.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority has asked the 118,000 homes and businesses it serves to reduce all water use by 10 percent from amounts consumed in 2013. The request came in addition to a 10 percent reduction requested last summer for outdoor irrigation.

“Last year, when we asked for a reduction of 10 percent in August and September, our residential customers responded with more than 11 percent reduction in water use,” Andy Gebhardt, manager of customer service for the water authority told The Associated Press on Friday.

Authority officials also expect to begin tapping backup water supplies stored in upstream reservoirs by July 1, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. They took that action in August for the first time in 20 years.

The water cutbacks in northern Nevada are voluntary, unlike in neighboring California were regulators have limited lawn watering to twice a week, prohibited restaurants from offering water unless customers ask, and required hotels and motels to offer guests an opportunity to decline fresh towels and sheets.

In northern Nevada, Hauck says there’s little chance mountain snowpack could suddenly rebound in the coming weeks to reach anything close to normal conditions.

The period from 2012 to 2014 was the driest three-consecutive-year-period over 113 years of record at Tahoe City, California.

Lake Tahoe dipped below its natural rim in October, cutting off flow into the Truckee River, The lake probably will not rise above the rim at all in 2015, Hauck said.

“I wouldn’t expect to see any water coming out of the lake,” he said.

Like last summer, outdoor watering will be prohibited from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Residential customers are allowed to water lawns only three times a week with specific days determined by street address.

First-time offenders get a warning, followed by a possible $25 fine that could go to $75 for each subsequent violation.

Gebhardt said the agency seldom issues fines.

“Usually customers respond very well when they are informed they have an issue with their outdoor watering,” he said.


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