Storms continue to raise Tahoe; majority of snowmelt still to come

After years of dry winters starting with winter 2011-12, the current winter season of 2016-17, brings a surge of water for the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake. This spring’s high water covers floodplain lands along the Truckee River for the first time in a decade where restoration of the river have occurred at The Nature Conservancy’s McCarran Ranch, the 102 Ranch, Lockwood and other areas downstream of the Truckee Meadows. Through Reno and Sparks, water laps at park benches and smacks into bridge abutments bringing residents and visitors alike to witness the racing runoff. The Truckee River’s flowing at a rate 7 times greater than last year. (Even more telling, the flow rate is 29 times greater this April 21 verses the meager flow in April 20, 2015.)  And Lake Tahoe’s storage has increased by 27 times over last year.

Truckee River April 2017 in at Whitewater Park.

  •   Truckee River flow at Tracy
    •   169 CFS: April 21, 2015
    •   714 CFS: April 20, 2016
    • 4970 CFS: April 20, 2017
  •   Tahoe water surface elevation and storage
    • 6222.74 feet, storage is negative 31,522 acre-feet: April 21, 2015
    • 6223.17 feet, storage is 20,640 acre-feet: April 21, 2016
    • 6227.69 feet, storage is 571,400 acre-feet: April 21, 2017

Flow rate in cubic-feet-per-second (CFS). [Note: 1 CFS =  7.5 gallons-per-second = 448.8 gallons-per-minute (GPM); Water volume in acre-feet: 1 acre-feet = 325,851 gallons].

Pyramid Lake has risen from its low point at the beginning of 2017 by some reports of more than 4 feet. The last official measurement from the USGS is reported at troa.net as 3796.56 feet above sea level on March 31, 2017. It was at elevation 3792.16 feet on December 1, 2016. Diversions to Lahontan Reservoir ended January 12, 2017 after it became clear that Lahontan Reservoir would reach capacity from flows from the Carson River. As of today, managers at the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, who control the Dam at Lahontan, are dumping water from the reservoir as rapidly as possible due to expected high flows of the Carson River for the next few months.

Have we made up for the drought conditions that have plagued western Nevada since 2000? Not likely with any single high flow year, but this will be an exceptional year and will go a long way to help the area streams, lakes, and groundwater to see a significant rebound over conditions of just a year ago.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake with hundreds of American White Pelicans and California Gulls watching for migrating fish.

American White Pelicans and Double Crested Cormorants rest waiting for a feast of Cui ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout migrating from the Lake to spawn in the Truckee River.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake with hundreds of American White Pelicans and California Gulls watching for migrating fish.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake.

Truckee River April 2017 in at Whitewater Park.

Truckee River flows at Pyramid Lake are hitting 5,000 CFS April 20, 2017.

Truckee River flows at Pyramid Lake are hitting 5,000 CFS April 20, 2017.

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About Dennis Ghiglieri

My concern for the Truckee River grew over the years. It started with picking up trash and supporting better water quality. I helped create the "living river"plan with other citizens on the Community Flood Coalition; a plan to reduce flood impacts to infrastructure through river restoration and protection of the floodplain. I understand how critical the Truckee River is to the environment – and economy – of our entire region. I'm hoping that through these pages we can all understand our connection to the Truckee River and why we need to protect it.

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