The gates at the Lake Tahoe Dam opened on February 22 and are likely to remain open, barring another flood event. Flows from the Lake into the Truckee River went from 50 cubic-feet-per-second (CFS) to 500 CFS at the end of the day last Wednesday. Lake Tahoe’s water surface elevation now stands at 6226.74 feet – 2.36 feet below its maximum elevation of 6229.1.
That Lake Tahoe will reach its maximum water surface elevation is a “foregone conclusion” according to a quote in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Feb. 26 by Truckee Meadows Water Authority hydrologist, Bill Hauck. Federal Watermaster, Chad Blanchard, controls water releases from Lake Tahoe based on the recently finalized Truckee River Operating Agreement (Dec 2015) and the 1930’s era Court Decree that governs the Truckee River. The Watermaster regulates flows to the river through releases from the numerous reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada west of Reno.
Rainfall record in Reno broken
The 12-month precipitation record for Reno stood since the 1982-83 winter season at 12.72 inches. On February 22, that record was exceeded and now stands at 12.74 inches with 7 months left to go in the water year (Oct 1 – Sep 30). (Check the record here.)
With sunny weather and warming temp-eratures forecast for the rest of the week we will have to wait to see if another storm of significance is waiting out there to add to the precipitation total. Given that we have seen many years of drought since 2000, the water we are receiving this year is helping to make up for those deficits. The high water flows have already set the stage for a significant improvement in conditions for the Truckee River, tributaries, and Pyramid Lake.
While flows from Lake Tahoe to the Truckee River have increased ten-fold since last week, flows in the Truckee River through Reno show declining flows, indicating that flows from other reservoirs in the Sierra have been reduced. Indications presently are that all area reservoirs will be filled by the snowmelt that will occur over the spring and early summer months.