Monthly Archives: October 2015

Drought through January 2016 for N. Nevada & California?

The latest forecast map from the Climate Prediction Center shows Northern Nevada and California in a “drought persists/intensifies” category through January 2016.  This seasonal outlook is an update from an earlier map which only went through December. The report accompanying the map has this to say regarding California and the Sierra:

October 2015 through January 2016 drought outlook

October 2015 through January 2016 drought outlook

“For the Southwest, El Niño associated climate anomalies favor an enhancement of the early wet season. Therefore, drought improvement is favored across central and southern California. There is greater confidence for improvement across the coastal regions and valleys, whereas significant improvement across the Sierras relies on colder temperatures to support substantial snowfall.”

Truckee Meadows Draft Water Resource Plan adoption and public open houses scheduled

A new water resource plan is being finalized by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. The 149 page plan attempts to demonstrate that water will be available for growth and that TMWA has a firm understanding of the cycles of droughts and floods and climate change and is assured of its upstream storage and ground water pumping on the Truckee River to meet demand.  The water plan also says that TMWA will pursue far-flung (my word) water developments “to meet water demands beyond the 2035 planning horizon.”

On October 21 at its Strategic Planning Workshop, the TMWA Board of Directors discussed the Draft Water Resource PlanThe plan will again be discussed at a Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting at TMWA Offices,1355 Capital Boulevard in Reno scheduled for November 3, 2015. [Click here to download the draft plan]. You can see video of the October 21st meeting here.

Four open house meetings (below) are scheduled so that the public can comment and discuss the draft 2016-2035 Water Resource Plan.

Date: Monday, November 9, 2015, Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Location: Spanish Springs Library at Lazy 5 Regional Park, 7100 Pyramid Lake Hwy, Spanish Springs

Date: Monday, November 16, 2015, Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Location: Truckee Meadows Water Authority, 1355 Capital Blvd., Reno

Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Location: O’Brien Middle School, 10500 Stead Blvd., Reno

Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Location: South Valleys Library,15650 Wedge Parkway, Reno

El Niño strengthens in Pacific; forecast for wetter winter increases in California & Nevada

The LA Times reports conditions are increasingly favorable for a wetter winter in California and Nevada.  The Time’s report is based on the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s map for the 3 month outlook from January through March 2016.  The most likely increase in precipitation is 60% or greater in southern California from Los Angeles and across southern Arizona.  Further north, however, the probabilities drop off to around 30% in northern California and Nevada.  Reno appears right at the 40% contour line. Temperatures are also forecast to be above average.  Today’s Reno Gazette Journal also reported on the El Niño phenomena that a wet winter is coupled with a forecast for above normal temperatures that will potentially impact snowpack. This El Niño is being compared to the winter of 1997-98 due to the similarity of the strength of the warming in the central Pacific Ocean.

NOAA precipitation forecast map for Jan-Mar 2015 (10-15-15)

NOAA precipitation forecast map for Jan-Mar 2015 (10-15-15) [Click to see full size]

The map is divided into 3 broad categories indicating “above” normal (A), “below” normal (B), or normal (N).  The map to the right is the latest 3 month outlook map for Jan-Mar 2016 (doesn’t show an “N” category), but does list “EC” that translates to “equal chances” of above, normal, or below average precipitation.  So for the Reno area, the current probability of above average precipitation is about 40%, the probability of average precipitation is 33.33% and the probability of below average precipitation is 26.67%.  In the best of all worlds that would mean a 73.33% chance of average or above average precipitation for the prime part of the winter season.  However, we are much closer to the “EC” category than to the “A” category which has equal weights for A, B and N at 33.33% each.  What will actually happen, of course, will only be known when April 2016 gets here.

The drought outlook for the next three months, October through December 2015, remains droughty with higher than average temperatures.

Water acquisition for Truckee River Water Quality completed

Lower Truckee River at Nixon, Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation

On October 6th, Great Basin Land and Water completed the purchase of 2,748 acre-feet of water rights from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA, say “tum-wa”) for water quality in the lower Truckee River.  This purchase, along with previous purchases of water rights for water quality, fulfills a requirement of the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA) to purchase 6,700 acre-feet of water rights for Truckee River water quality.  The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe will hold the water rights for the benefit of the entire lower river and Pyramid Lake fisheries. A $7 million grant from the Bureau of Reclamation under its “Terminal Lakes Program” paid for the acquisition.

The Pyramid Lake strain of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout has spawned successfully in the Truckee River after an 77 year absence.

The Pyramid Lake strain of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout has spawned successfully in the Truckee River after an 77 year absence.

The acquisition of the 6,700 acre-feet of water for water quality in the lower river was a requirement of the TROA and was the last hurdle before the agreement could be fully implemented.  Completion of TROA is a major accomplishment for the negotiators and benefits the residents of the Truckee Meadows through the ability of TMWA to store more water in upstream reservoirs as drought reserves.  It also benefits the Truckee River by allowing greater flexibility in river operations that enhance the ecological function of the river and through improved flows when droughts reduce the amount of water in the river to a trickle. You’ll find the full TROA agreement at the TROA website.

Fisherman at Warrior Point at Pyramid Lake

Fisherman at Warrior Point, Pyramid Lake

A little less than 11,000 acre-feet of water have been purchased by Great Basin Land and Water over the last decade to benefit flows in the lower Truckee River and Pyramid Lake.

Lower Truckee River at Nixon, Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation

Lower Truckee River at Nixon, Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation

One Truckee River Stakeholder Forum

Community members at the first "One Truckee River Plan" meeting in fall 2015.

Around 125 people attended the First Annual One Truckee River Stakeholder Forum last week at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center on the banks of the river in downtown Reno.  The forum brought together knowledgeable people from public safety, academia, government, and non-government groups (The Nature Conservancy, Great Basin Bird Observatory and many others) to discuss what to include in a new overall plan for the Truckee River. Sponsors of the event were the Nevada Land Trust and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.

Since the forum just last week, NLT and KTMB have released a Request for Proposal for a qualified firm to write a plan which will address all the issues discussed at the forum and culminate with presentations of the final plan before the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County and “2-3 presentations” to the stakeholder group. The plan is to address the Truckee River reach that includes most of the Truckee Meadows from the Mayberry area to the Reno-Sparks Water Reclamation Facility, approximately 15 miles of the river. Broadly, the plan is to address the following “emerging issues”:

  • Water Quality
  • Social Issues
  • Stewardship
  • Ecosystem
  • Quality of Life
  • Public Safety
  • Funding
  • Recreation
  • Education

Most residents and visitors to the Truckee Meadows are most familiar with this portion of the river.  We hope that this plan will result in improvement to the river experience and the improved function of the river: more space for the river, protecting and enhancing the riparian corridor and protecting native trees and acknowledging that keeping water in the river is essential for the river to remain a resource for all of us.  Likewise, public safety and preventing vandalism along this river reach is essential to gaining the support of Truckee Meadows residents. (See my recent post of the good and the ugly along the Truckee River trail through the Truckee Meadows.)

I support the current effort as a positive step that, hopefully, will lead to improving the Truckee River through the Truckee Meadows.

Floating the river is a popular summer activity which depends on healthy river flows. Floating the river is a popular summer activity which depends on healthy river flows.

Floating the river is a popular summer activity which depends on adequate river flows.