Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

KUNR

  A report detailing the state of Lake Tahoe was released on Thursday, raising concerns about the continued impact of low water levels. Reno Public Radio’s Julia Ritchey reports.

A packed conference room listened raptly as Geoff Schladow went over a few of the most salient points in this year’s report at the Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village.

Schladow directs the the University of California-Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center. He says some of their main concerns are increasing amounts of microscopic algae and the rate of evaporation.

Democratic Senator Harry Reid says the designation of a sprawling national monument in rural Nevada last week was not part of an effort to fend off a nuclear waste dump. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

In an interview Monday with KNPR in Las Vegas, the outgoing senator was asked whether the designation of the Basin and Range National Monument was meant to prevent the construction of a railroad that would ship nuclear waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Nevada's New National Monument Draws Criticism

Jul 10, 2015
Bureau of Land Management

President Barack Obama used executive powers Friday to designate a huge swath of Southern Nevada as a new national monument, but the move has drawn criticism from several local lawmakers. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports. 

The president's decision will protect more than 1,100-square miles of desert and mountain terrain by creating the Basin and Range National Monument. U.S. Senator Harry Reid and other Democrats are hailing the move as historic.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority is now using drought reserves to meet customer demand.

Usually, surface water from the Truckee River provides 90 percent of what area customers use, but since river flows are so low, the authority has now tapped into its upstream drought reserves in Boca Reservoir. 

"We actually anticipated being in this position several weeks ago," says Bill Hauck, senior hydrologist for the agency, "but the rain we had in May brought a significant amount of rainfall which found its way to the river. It basically enhanced our supply by several weeks."

Reno Public Radio

The rain coupled with customer response to the drought in northern Nevada has led to good news for the water supply. 

 

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority reports water production for May was 19 percent lower than the same month in 2013. That equals approximately half a billion gallons in saved water.  

National Park Service

Nevada's warming weather means reptiles like rattlesnakes will be out during the daytime hours - and when that's the case, they can pose dangerous threats to residents.

Ninety percent of rattlesnake bites can be avoided if the animal is left alone. That's according to Chris Healy from the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He says many snake bites result from people approaching, rather than avoiding the snake.

With historically high temperatures, low humidity, and dry, dry land, Northern Nevada is facing what could be a devastating fire season. For our ongoing series on the drought and all its ripple effects, Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss ventured out to Washoe Valley where local firefighters have been preparing for what this summer may bring.  

Greg Jackson is an operator for the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, and he’s hiking through the woods to a half-dead, towering pine tree that his crew will cut down for practice. 

University of Nevada, Reno

Out on the range, the drought means a lot of things—not having enough water to quench the thirst of your cattle or not having enough feed growing where you need it most.

And then there’s the danger of a wildfire.

All of these problems are leading many ranchers to ship their animals east. Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss spoke to Bryan Masini to learn more. He owns ranches outside Yerington and Elko. 

  

Alexa Ard

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority is asking customers to voluntarily cut their water usage by ten percent. To figure out how to actually do that, we reached out to local experts who offered these tips:

Tip #1: Monitor and adjust your irrigation system

People use four times more water in the summer to irrigate their lawns. Here's Master Gardener Wendy Hanson-Mazet from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension with a tip on how to cut back on that amount.

Tip #2: Use mulch

This time last year, Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss visited Rick Lattin in Fallon where they toured his farm and talked about Lattin’s growing concern for his crops, especially the alfalfa.

Now, with yet another harvest threatened by the ongoing drought, Michelle checked up on Lattin to find out how he and other farmers in that community are holding up.

www.fws.gov

The bi-state sage grouse, found only in Nevada and California, will not be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

All of the stakeholders involved in saving the Mono Basin sage grouse from extinction offered the same message at Tuesday's press conference in Reno on how the bird has avoided the need for federal protection:

"This collaborative partnership is a model for effective, long-term conservation," said Tony Wasley, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Sandoval Orders Drought Forum

Apr 8, 2015
gov.nv.gov

Governor Brian Sandoval has issued an executive order to create a panel for studying and combating Nevada's severe drought. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that Sandoval announced the order Wednesday during a press conference at Washoe Lake State Park.

The order will create a Nevada Drought Forum designed to study and analyze state water use and potential areas for water savings. Sandoval's order also requires a water audit of all state-owned facilities.

http://watershedsculpture.blogspot.com/

Artists and conservationists have teamed up to make watershed sculptures beside the Truckee River. Along with their aesthetic beauty, using basket-weaving techniques to hold natural materials together, the artwork will actually restore damaged flood plains over the next few years. Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports.

The Sierra snowpack is now the worst it’s been in a century. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

Jeff Anderson, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, just measured 13.2 inches of water content in the snowpack up at the Mt. Rose summit. In a normal season, there would be about 90 inches of snow.

“When you look at the mountains right now," he says, "and you look at the snow that’s up there, you’re really seeing history.”

Many farmers in and around Yerington are being ordered to cut their water usage in half this growing season.  

As far as State Engineer Jason King knows, this is the first time they've ever told farmers to stop pumping groundwater.

"What we are seeing in these two particular basins, Smith and Mason Valley, are just unprecedented water declines. They're the steepest on record."

You are probably familiar with the "Keep Tahoe Blue" stickers, which have brought public awareness to the decline in clarity of Lake Tahoe's signature blue waters. 

But here's a bumper sticker you haven't seen, yet: 'Save Tahoe's Smallest Critters.' Those invertebrates, some only native to Tahoe, are undergoing a massive extinction at the lake's bottom. A group of divers recently completed a first-of-its-kind tour of the entire lake in order to assess the ecological changes there. 

The new year "critical" for region's water supply

Dec 30, 2014

The snowpack in the Sierra continues to reflect the drought conditions that have stressed Northern Nevada in recent years.

For the third year in a row, the Truckee Meadows and other nearby basins on the Eastern Sierra have only about two thirds of the normal snowpack. Or, put another way: we’ve lost a year’s worth of precipitation in this most recent drought cycle.

“The reservoir storage on the Truckee River is only about 25 percent of capacity.”

Jeff Anderson is a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Chuck Schlarb

 A battle over water is brewing on the parched earth of the Black Rock Desert. An effort to transport water from Humboldt County more than 100 miles south has residents and ranchers alarmed. 

Chuck Giordano grows alfalfa on the outskirts of the Black Rock Desert in a place appropriately known as Desert Valley. But don’t let the name fool you. When it comes to water, he’s lucky.

“We have a fairly good reserve of water underneath us because our water table, even with the drought, has hardly dropped any.”

State wildlife officials say they are concerned that climate change and urbanization might diminish the native bee population. Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss reports the Nevada Department of Agriculture is putting together guidelines to protect these important pollinators of natural plants.

Jeff Knight is the state’s entomologist. His job is primarily to keep the bad bugs out and to monitor the ones that are vital to the local environment.

Photo from www.blogs.kqed.org.

Thursday, Nevada regulators will decide on proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." The industry is just beginning to explore for oil in the east, near Elko, using this technique. Environmental groups and some locals worry about the impacts on Nevada's scarce water resources. Reno Public Radio's Will Stone has more on that debate.

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