Rem Scherzinger: A missed opportunity for the foothills
March 30, 2016
The so-called "Godzilla el Niño" that promised massive rains and flooding throughout the state hasn't lived up to its hype … but it still may. In spite of the fact that these intense storms have yet to materialize, we have benefitted from consistent rain in the first two months of the year.
So, while we're still in a drought — and need to remain ever-vigilant — the precipitation has definitely helped our parched state and especially the communities served by the Nevada Irrigation District (NID).
During January's storms, the NID measured 52,425 acre-feet (17 billon gallons) of water released down the Bear River below a full and spilling Rollins Reservoir. While this is exciting news, the fact that we're unable to capture and save this precious resource represents a tremendous loss to our region and the communities served by the Nevada Irrigation District.
To put the volume of rain "lost" into perspective, the water lost this past January alone exceeds the capacity of Scotts Flat Reservoir (48,547 acre-feet) and represents nearly half of the volume needed to fill NID's proposed water storage reservoir, Centennial.
Many have asked why NID needs a third reservoir when we already have two. The answer is simple. Today’s NID water storage system relies too heavily on runoff from mountain snowpack, which, as we have seen in recent years, has been unpredictable.
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The region's struggle through four years of bitter drought has created significant community awareness.
Water users throughout the NID's service area have done their part and cut water use by 31 percent since Governor Brown implemented the mandates. NID is proud to report that this is higher than the state average.
Equally important, our community is experiencing new way of thinking about how we can best meet our water supply responsibilities in Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties.
A record, four-plus year drought and the increased awareness comes during a time of changing climate, future droughts and an ever-increasing downstream demand for water. These indisputable realities mean that all of us – NID included – must evaluate ways to capture and store water during the times when it is abundant so that when we need it most (i.e., during the hot summer months), we have it.
NID's Centennial Reservoir project – identified since the 1920s as a premium water storage location – is now in active planning and has been for more than a year. The project is located on the Bear River below NID's Rollins Reservoir and above Combie Reservoir. The District's water rights on the Bear River date to its earliest days. Many have asked why NID needs a third reservoir when we already have two. The answer is simple. Today's NID water storage system relies too heavily on runoff from mountain snowpack, which, as we have seen in recent years, has been unpredictable. With warmer weather, less snowpack and more rain predicted in future years, the system we have built becomes less reliable.
This changing reality points to the need for more mid-elevation water storage so that we can bolster storage with runoff from rainstorms, as well as snowpack.
Centennial Reservoir will accomplish this very task. As planned, the reservoir will hold 110,000 acre-feet of water. Building Centennial will ensure that the communities served by the NID have access to an available and reliable source of water in the future. The project has other benefits that include public recreation, habitat improvements for fish and wildlife and a possible option for hydroelectric power generation.
With a warming climate, less snowpack but greater rainfall, the Nevada Irrigation District needs Centennial Reservoir to store more water in the foothills where it can supply the ever-increasing needs of the homes, farms and businesses of Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties – and, by doing so, protecting these communities against future drought.
The District is in the preliminary stage of a comprehensive environmental review. We're proud of the community support we've received to date. We hope that area residents, businesses and interested stakeholders will take the opportunity to learn about the project and its regional benefits. Visitto learn more about the project.
Rem Scherzinger is general manager of the Nevada Irrigation District.
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