Water conservation

Water: more precious than gold

For ranchers and farmers in the Lahontan Valley, water is more valuable than gold because it provides an agricultural lifeline for the thousands of people who inhabit this region.
Rusty Jardine, Managing Director and Legal Counsel for the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District in Fallon, provided an overview of Project Newlands and how reclamation and the laws that govern its operation have made Fallon the oasis of Nevada. Jardine presented the third lecture in the Churchill County Museum’s seven-part series on the water last week.
The fourth conference on Tuesday focused on the Derby Dam fish screens, and the fifth conference on October 12 includes two speakers. Darcy Phillips, Executive Director of the River Wranglers, will discuss “In and Out of the Classroom: Learning About the Carson River Watershed” with information on the watershed, pollution, water quality and water quality. water conservation.
Brenda Hunt, Watershed Program Manager for the Carson Water Subconservancy, will present “Watershed Literacy in Action: I am Carson Watershed”.
All presentations are free and open to the public from 6 p.m.
TCID hired Jardine in 2010 to become the managing director after working for years as an attorney in the Elko court system and the 11th Pershing County Judicial District Court, where he worked more with the Humboldt Order in Council which regulated this. body of water.
Jardine said TCID only provides untreated water for agricultural purposes and the Carson and Truckee rivers create a supply. As with the previous conference on the origins of the Newlands Project at the turn of the 20e century, Jardine briefly gave a history of the Newlands Project and how it fits into communities. TCID, however, was formed in 1918 to work with the Bureau of Reclamation (formerly known as the Reclamation Service) to assume eventual control of the Newlands Project.
“Our main mission was to provide a drainage system,” Jardine said. “The engineers who created this project were brilliant. It was a wonderful feat of engineering.
Jardine said TCID has 2,500 users and operates on a budget of $ 7 million. Although much of the water goes to farmers and ranchers, Jardine said TCID also uses the water to generate electricity at its three power plants. He said the agency is learning from its history, especially during the 2015 review, which this year parallels water storage and use as well as drought data.
Overall, Jardine said in real terms, TCID and reclamation projects haven’t been around that long. He said the number of acts of Congress provided people with a system of homestead ownership and access to land for private property. Lake Tahoe, he said, reaches an average depth of 1,000 feet with its clear water. The reclamation project therefore includes a series of dams to hold or divert water, a system of canals, and the Lahontan Dam holds water flowing into the Carson River for agricultural producers.

Steve Ranson / LVN
A dry Truckee Canal passes south of Fernley and normally supplies water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir.

“People in the 1800s saw a river and later a dam built to hold water,” Jardine said.
The critical situation of the project, the runoff water from the Sierra and Lahontan reservoirs continues to occupy TCID. Because the snowpack fell below expectations this year, Jardine said farmers received less than 70% of their water allocation with a shorter growing season.
“It’s so hard to predict,” Jardine said of the snowpack and the water content.
Currently, by law, the reservoir has maintained its current level at about 6,000 acre-feet of water, but Jardine hopes more water can flow into the reservoir from storms in late October or early November. All eyes, however, are on the winter months.
“We need help. We need a snowpack,” he said.
Figures from March 1, 2021 showed the SNOTEL (Snow Telemetry) site near the summit of Monte Rosa recorded a total of 68 inches of snow with 21 inches of water content. This is 65% of the median for the first day of March; however, the area did not receive major storms over the next three months to improve the depth or content of the snowfall.
Jardine was asked to revisit the canal breach of January 5, 2008, which inundated hundreds of homes in the Fernley area. A 50-foot breach in the Truckee Canal embankment drained water to the housing estates below the canal. Jardine said that at the time, water was flowing at 750 cubic feet per second and flooding 590 homes. Subsequently, Jardine, who was not the managing director at the time, said lawyers were contacting the owners to take legal action against TCID and other government entities. As a result, TCID has been sued in state and federal courts.
“We had to get rid of the assets… from our storage at Donner Lake,” Jardine said. “We were able to settle these claims. “
The sale of the Donner Lake District assets settled the Fernley Flood litigation with the provisions implemented by the Truckee River Operating Agreement. The TROA regulates the use of water storage and flow in the Truckee River. The Newlands Project receives water from the river which is redirected at the Derby Dam west of Fernley to the Truckee Canal.
Jardine said the TCID is subject to the National Historical Preservation Act and the Clean Water Act which protects the environment. Referring to Marc Reisner’s book, “Cadillac Desert,” Jardine said the information provides a history of water management in the West. According to Jardine, Reisner wondered why someone would move to an area where there is no water to build communities.
“Well we’ve made this community a great place,” Jardine said with a smile. “We have land and water.
Jardine said Reisner was accused of defending environmentalists; However, Jardine pointed out that Brigham Young and his followers developed the Utah Desert by conquering land and growing crops. He said that the term Mesopotamia in American indicates that rivers and fertile land led to productive growth.
“Reisner said the Reclamation Act was based on Mormon desert development,” Jardine said.
Congress has passed a number of bills, but Jardine said the Newlands Project ushered in current water laws. The first comprehensive water law was passed in 1913. After that year, Jardine declared that water rights would become the responsibility of the state engineer. The Alpine and Orr Ditch Decrees determine how the area’s local water is used.
The Carson Water Subconservancy District states that “the Alpine Decree divided the east and west forks and main stem of the Carson River into eight self-contained segments. The transfer of water rights from one segment to another changes the priority of a given water right. Based on this and other restrictions of the Alpine Decree, the movement of water must be carried out in a systematic and careful manner.
According to the TCID website, the “Orr Ditch Decree was the result of a lawsuit brought by the United States in 1913 to fully specify who owned water rights on the Truckee River and had storage rights. in Lake Tahoe. The Orr Ditch Order in Council ruled on the water rights of the Truckee River in Nevada and established the quantities, places, types of use, and priorities of various rights, including the right of the United States to store water. water in Lake Tahoe for the Newlands Project.
The executive order also incorporated the 1935 Truckee River Agreement between the Sierra Pacific Power Company (now Truckee Meadows Water Authority), TCID, the Washoe County Water Conservation District, the Home Office and certain other Truckee River water users.
Because a statute in the state of Nevada determines the use of water, Jardine said people who live in the state have the right to use water.

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