Northern Nevada’s water-supply picture continued its positive trend in January, particularly with a winter storm that swept through the Sierra the last weekend of the month.
In fact, the federal government agency that tracks precipitation compared this winter to a team having a comfortable lead at halftime in the Super Bowl.
The late January storm “came in warm and wet boosting river flows and bumping up reservoir storage before finishing off cold, leaving 2-3 feet of first-class powder,” officials from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in their latest Nevada Water Supply Outlook Report.
They warned, however, that the water year still faces a second half and cited 2013, which also started off strong but stalled mid-season.
The long-term forecast, however, continues to “show good chances of wet weather from February through April fueled by El Nino,” officials said in the report.
“Based on long-term climatology, December, January and February are the biggest precipitation months of the year. So far two of the three have been well above average; hopefully the second half of February will bring enough to keep that streak alive.”
The report showed that snowpack in the Lake Tahoe Basin is above normal at 130 percent of median as of Feb. 1. Last year’s snowpack during the fourth year of the drought was measured at a measly 17 percent. January precipitation for the basin was much greater than average at 155 percent.
That higher precipitation is helping to fill Lake Tahoe. The lake’s water level rose nearly a half foot in January and is about a foot below its natural rim. It needs another foot to reach the point where water can flow out of the lake.
Forecasts “predict Tahoe could reach about 10 inches above its rim this summer,” officials said in the report. “With some luck college kids will be playing bumper boats between Tahoe City and River Ranch this summer, and the Reno whitewater park will impress kayak competitors when it hosts the National Freestyle Championships in May.”
For the Truckee River Basin, snowpack is above normal at 114 percent of median, compared with 31 percent last year. Storage in upstream reservoirs along the Truckee River on average is about 22 percent of capacity, leaving plenty of room of fill.