Residents asked to cut back on outdoor water use

Jul 28, 2014

Over the last few days, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority has been reaching out to its customers, asking them to cut back on watering their lawns. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports the request comes as more impacts of the ongoing drought are expected to emerge across the region this week.

The authority has sent notices to customers asking them to cut their outdoor water use by ten percent. It's not an action taken lightly.

"The authority has never made a request like this," says Bill Hauck, the authority's senior hydrologist. Starting this week, he says they'll have to take water from the region's reserves in order to meet current demands.

"Although not unprecedented," Hauck says, "this is the first time in twenty years that we'll be tapping our drought reserves, so to speak. June of 1994 was the last time."

According to Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard, this week will also bring about another major change as irrigation ditches dry up. Back in the late 1800's, ditches and canals were hand-dug throughout the Truckee Meadows to deliver water to ranches and farms. Many of those water rights owners will most likely not see another drop anytime soon. Blanchard blames the extraordinary length of this drought:

"Going back, when we look at three-year periods, this is the second-driest three-year period that we've had in 114 years or so of records," he explains. "But the thing that makes this not as bad as some of those years we had, especially in the early 90s, is that we do have some available water in Tahoe."

Lake Tahoe can hold up to six feet of reservoir storage across its surface, and, right now, it's holding a little less than a foot.