Dry spell in Carson Valley better for harvesting hay than growing it
MINDEN, Nev. — Carson Valley agriculturalists have been making hay while the sun shines over the past weeks, recognizing that irrigation season is just about over.
With the last tiny patches of snow clinging to Jobs Peak, the season’s first cutting is wrapping up on properties across the Valley.
Most thunderstorms so far this summer bypassed Minden, where records have been kept since 1906.
The Douglas County seat only recorded .03 inches of moisture during June, or 8 percent of its average.
According to National Weather Service records, it has been 32 days since Minden last received measurable rainfall.
However, the same electrical storms that set fires in the mountains also brought rain, with Ebbetts Pass at the top of the East Fork receiving 1.1 inches of precipitation during June, and Markleeville being doused with 1.08 inches, 2.5 times its average rainfall.
As helpful as that moisture has been, the Carson River Basin is still sitting around 61 percent of its average moisture for the water year. While thunderstorms may douse portions of basin over the last quarter of the water year, July, August and September rarely see significant precipitation. The average for the three months is just .86 inches or a half-inch less than an average December.
According to the U.S. Department of Agricultural report issued on July 7, Nevada alfalfa hay sold for an average of $180 a ton during May, up from $165 a ton from last year. All other types of hay are selling for $175 a ton.
Dry weather is good for cutting hay, but makes it more difficult to grow it. Those ranchers relying on streams and the Carson River for irrigation will find that water is becoming increasingly scarce.
Some larger outfits can rely on treated effluent to irrigate fields through the summer, while others will find themselves pumping their supplemental water rights from the aquifer, which is where everyone in Carson and Antelope valleys get their drinking water.
According to the most recent drought mapping produced by the National Weather Service, Western Nevada was in moderate drought as of the end of June.
One of the effects of a drought include increased fire danger and a reduction of natural forage, which sends animals into neighborhoods looking for food.
The three-month temperature outlook calls for above average temperatures through September. Forecasters are giving even odds for precipitation during the same three months. The water year ends on Sept. 30.
With three-quarters of the water year past, only December and March brought above average precipitation in the Douglas County.
December saw 2.15 inches of precipitation according to National Weather Service records, while March saw 1.72 inches after a dry January and February.
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