Nine Nevada counties declared disaster areas for drought

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Nine Nevada counties declared disaster areas for drought

Mt_rose_bare_peak

Scott Bliss

Bare peaks across the Sierra illustrate the region's ongoing drought conditions and measly snow pack this year.

As farmers and ranchers across Nevada continue hoping for rain and snow, federal officials have declared nine counties, including Washoe, as primary natural disaster areas because of the ongoing drought.

Portions of 10 other Western and Central states have also reached that emergency status.

Along with ski shops and resorts, farmers and ranchers are disappointed in this year's measly snow pack, which is less than a third of its normal average across the entire state.

Clint Koble is state executive director for the Farm Service Agency of the US Department of Agriculture. He says the snow pack has special significance in Nevada versus other states.

"The snow pack really sets the stage for our spring and summer. We are not a dry land farming state, so we don't rely upon rain; we instead rely upon irrigation for all of our crops, so we need snow pack to replenish our reservoirs, our streams, our creeks, our water collection ponds, and our underground water supply."

In Washoe County, Koble says it's a "wait-and-see" game for farmers relying on water allotments this spring and summer.

"They may have those water allotments seriously curtailed, which means they may be in danger of only growing one or two crops of alfalfa, instead of three or four. Some producers are facing the fact that if they're not going to get enough water at all that they don't even want to plant some crops."

The disaster designation means that eligible farmers can apply for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA.