Monthly Archives: June 2014

Wasting away in Reno-will-regret-it-ville

Watering on a hot and windy afternoon wastes 30% of the water

With apologies to Jimmy Buffett, it appears that some Renoites have few qualms about watering during hot afternoons.  Not a good idea now with Truckee River flows soon to reach pitifully small levels.  But it isn’t a good idea ever.  Why?

Never mind that the local water purveyor, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), says to “Shut your sprinklers off between noon and 6 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day”.  A better reason to water early in the morning (4 am – 11 am) is because it is cheaper and better for your lawn, too.  Watering in the afternoon costs you money because you’re wasting at least 20-30 percent of the water coming out of your sprinklers.  During our warm and frequently windy afternoons a significant portion of your irrigation water goes directly into the air or gets blown off course onto sidewalks and driveways.  Many sprinkler systems already have way too much pressure and spray out fine mists of water that’s even more susceptible to immediate evaporation into the air.  [Click here for some tips on watering lawns.]

So keep the Truckee River flowing through town this summer – and next – by using less water, using it efficiently (no leaks or broken irrigation sprayers or floods down the gutter), and not watering in the afternoon.  You’ll save a little money, and the river and all its critters will thank you.  Really.

Watering on a hot and windy afternoon wastes 30% of the water

Watering on a hot and windy afternoon wastes 30% of the water

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout spawn for first time since 1938

Today the RGJ’s environmental reporter Jeff Delong reported on the successful spawning of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in the lower Truckee River in 76 years.  The fish dug spawning beds and reproduced in the Truckee River between the mouth of the river and Marble Bluff Dam.

Truckee River flows into Pyramid Lake in the summer of 2013

Truckee River flows into Pyramid Lake in the summer of 2013

The article tells the story of how we lost this valuable resource largely to the construction of the Derby Dam on the river which diverts a significant flow of the river to the Newlands Irrigation Project.

We can only hope that the river and the fish can now thrive once again in the 21st century.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout mount at Sutcliff

Conserve now. Don’t wait for TMWA to ask.

Water runs off over-irrigated lawn in Reno

Perhaps you read the editorial opinion published in the RGJ May 27, 2014 by the GM of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA – pronounced TUM-WA – now doesn’t that sound nice?).  Therein the GM declared that the severe and continuing drought was absolutely no reason to conserve water here in the good ol’ Truckee Meadows anytime soon.  Astonishing though it is, that is what he said.

Cleverly entitled “Utility set to meet water needs”, he begins by saying that “everyone is talking about the drought.”  But then he asks “Why not ask for more conservation now?”  Then tells us that “TMWA is prepared to meet the water needs of our customers”, that is, without conservation until the river becomes stressed and flow drops below “mandated” levels.  So when should you conserve?  Not now for heaven’s sake!   In other words, use as much water as you want and we’ll let you know when to conserve – wink, wink.  Implied, but not said is, “please don’t conserve water and keep our revenues up.”  Conservation be damned!

The GM softens his conservation-can-wait message with a paragraph about we’ve-been-through-these-challenges-before and drought-is-a-natural-occurence and as-a-desert-based-utility-TMWA-plans-for-dry-years.  

The essence of the message the GM is conveying?  Use as much water as you need and if you feel like it pray for snow next year.

The GM will use “upstream drought reserves” and “groundwater” to meet your needs later – even if you would be more than happy to conserve (and save a little money) right now.

Of course, Reno averages only 7″ of precipitation a year making us one of the driest places on the planet. Never mind that this year we’re under 5″ and the Sierra runoff will be 25% of average in many locales.  Nevertheless, the GM doesn’t think that a 14 year dry spell is any reason to call for conservation of water anytime soon.  Use what you need to.  Never mind that this drought represents one of the worst dry spells for perhaps half a millennia. After all TMWA is prepared for your business.

Drought Monitor May 27, 2014

Drought Monitor May 27, 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if the GM were more practical?  more thoughtful?  more likely to err on the side of caution?  more like a leader who needs to be honest with 300,000 people who already know that there is a serious drought and are prepared to respond?  Who prefer to see water in the river rather than evaporating on their sidewalk?

Conservation has to be taught every day of the year to remind all of us that every drop of water we use takes that drop of water from our lakes, river, streams, wetlands, and springs and the wildlife that depends on them.  Conservation should be the main thing that TMWA talks about – as a “desert based utility”.  Conservation is more than reporting “water waste”.  It is the way westerners and the environment we all depend on can survive in a changing climate; a climate that is getting both hotter and drier.

Water running off automatic sprinkler system - a common sight throughout Truckee Meadows.

Perhaps the GM could lead and call for conservation every day of the year for the simple reason that we live in a desert.