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Average Snowpack Means Washoe Won't Have To Cut Back Water Use


(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, checks the snowpack depth while performing the snow survey at Phillips Station near Echo Summit, Calif.

Washoe County, like much of the West, faces extreme drought.

In 2014 and 2015, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority asked customers to cut back by 10 percent.

But this year, both snowpack and water storage are up, so the authority won’t require residents to save specific amounts.

“We’re in a bit of a recovery period now after four very dry years ... we had a normal snowpack year and a normal to above-average stream runoff,” said Bill Hauck, senior hydrologist for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. 

Hauck said 2015 was one of the worst snowpacks in recorded history, but now the area is at 100 percent of normal. He said Lake Tahoe will fill to its natural rim and other reservoirs will also be filled. 

However, Hauck was quick to say that the drought is not over. 

Why does one good year of snowfall allow for relaxed conservation?

Andy Gebhardt is the director of customer relations at the TMWA. He said they're not 'relaxing' conservation; they're just not asking for additional conservation.

"We ask for conservation all the time," Gebhardt said.

Last year, customers pulled out water-intensive landscaping in exchange for more drought-tolerate plants. They also cut back on lawn and landscape watering. 

Gebhardt said people realize their yards looked fine with less watering, so they'll likely keep their sprinkler system settings where they are. 

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He also said the water authority didn't want to "cry wolf," or ask customers to conserve more water when they don't need to and it doesn't benefit them anyway. That way, if TMWA has to dip into drought reserves and ask customers to conserve in the future, they'll take it seriously. 


Bill Hauck, senior hydrologist, Truckee Meadows Water Authority; Andy Gebhardt, director of customer relations, TMWA

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