Climatologists say drought will be costly

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Climatologists say drought will be costly

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On Thursday, a climate forum was held at the Desert Research Institute, scientists offered their summer forecast for snow pack runoff in the Tahoe area. Despite a recent string of winter storms, that outlook is less than ideal and could have numerous effects on the local economy.

The snowpack for the Truckee, Carson, and Walker river basins is sitting at 45% of an average year, which means anticipated runoffs throughout the region could be only 10-30% of normal between now and July.

Beau Uriona is a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He says because of poor reservoir carryover from year to year, he expects low flows and for streams to dry up early.

"Agricultural users downstream are certainly going to see less water than they're used to seeing," Uriona says. "Most likely there will be water rights restrictions in place, as well as the things that a lot of people don't think about: floating down the Truckee River. It might not really be a possibility this year. It's very popular and brings in a lot of money for tourism."

He says there could also be spikes in the cost of local produce due to poor irrigation.

"As well as beef prices, from locally-produced beef, it's going to be harder for them to grow the hay that they need to feed their cattle, so, they're going to have to buy the hay from someone else, which is going to increase their costs."

This is the third year of sustained drought for the region, but Uriona says the area has actually endured about a decade of drought, with a brief respite in 2011, and it could take another decade to fully replenish groundwater reservoirs.