Water outlook for summer even worse than initial predictions

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Water outlook for summer even worse than initial predictions

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Incline Village Beach. Photo from tripadvisor.com.

Drought concerns are looming large as Northern Nevada and Tahoe enter the summer months with very little snowpack. On top of that, water officials are reporting that the early spring runoff is even lower than predicted.

Typically, a significant portion of the spring runoff comes in April. Not the case this year.

"That coupled with the poor storage in the reservoirs means we're in more trouble than we have been in the last couple years."

Beau Uriona is a hydrologist with the National Resources Conservation Service. Uriona has just revised his initial forecast because the stream flows were so low. Precipitation was only about 50 to 60 percent of normal in April. Add in the meager snowpack and the early melt off, and things aren't looking good. The Carson River, which is important for agriculture, is at about 15 percent of normal. And farmers may find their water rights cut off a month early. Many reservoirs are at about 20 to 30 percent of average, including Tahoe.

"Lake Tahoe, we essentially expect it to quit rising at this point. It should stay pretty steady through May, but not really rise at all, which, typically, June would be the time it quits rising."

That will mean a very low lake during the end of the summer. These poor conditions hit agriculture the hardest. Rationing of water for businesses and residences is unlikely because it makes up such a small amount of overall water usage. But Uriona says, given the dryness, this could be an unprecedented wildfire season.