Water study, growth important to watershed

Churchill County commissioners are on the right track after requesting the Carson Water Subconservancy District (CWSD) to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to implement an updated flood study review below the Lahontan Reservoir.

The last time FEMA completed any review of the Carson River corridor that runs through Churchill County came more than 40 years ago in 1977.

Since that time, however, the county has faced two major flooding scenarios, the first happening in 1983 and the second major threat of flooding last year. Although minor flooding occurred in 2017 along the Carson River from Alpine County, Calif., to Churchill County, the need for an updated map and information is critical. Although December and the first week of January have produced below average precipitation in the Sierra Mountain range, the potential for heavy snowfall and runoff can happen when least expected.

Even with a threat of catastrophic flooding last spring, Churchill County mitigated the flood danger by using the latest information from the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Conservation Resource Service, National Weather Service and the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District; historical information based on prior flooding; and a little luck.

A study that last occurred in 1977 is definitely overdue since the upper Carson River west of the reservoir recently had a study completed on its floodplain. Commission Chairman Pete Olsen said the county could’ve used updated information for its 2017 planning to divert water from the reservoir via the V-line canal and into the desert.

The county’s letter to the CWSD stated … “The recalculation of peak flows below Lahontan Reservoir will enable Churchill County to evaluate flood preparation for our community. This data will also be helpful in aiding the county with decisions to pursue new flood maps or develop an area drainage master plan.”

While the new study will give planners more in-depth information, that’s not the only problem facing water users along the Carson River. All stakeholders involved with water usage have received information that any major growth within the Carson River Watershed, which begins in Alpine County and extends eastward past the Carson Sink, could more than double the population to 400,000 people by 2050. Although we are cautious the population will not increase by more than 200,000 in 32 years, we’re also looking at Nevada’s unbridled growth within the watershed to be a serious matter since 95 percent of the Carson River water is allocated or agriculture, a significant industry in Churchill County and surface water rights could be allocated.

To plan for the future, the 2018 Water Summit is set for Jan. 30 from 8 a.m.-noon in the Nevada Room at the Governor’s Mansion.

As previously noted in an LVN article, future issues will — and rightfully so — focus on the following:

Infrastructure needs

Water use

Potential water law changes

Limited water supply east of Dayton

The need for more induction wells

Water quality concerns

A need for upstream storage

Water issues are important to Nevada and especially to the people who live within the Carson River Watershed. The water summit is a good start this month for government and private agencies to ask the difficult questions affecting the future of water in our area, and if we can sustain any type of explosive growth in a worse-case scenario.

LVN editorials appear on Wednesdays.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment