Carson strikes deal with state for Marlette water
Carson City could start taking water again from Marlette Lake under a new agreement with the state of Nevada.
The city’s previous deal with the state ended five years ago, but Carson City continued purchasing water under the terms of the expired agreement while the two parties worked on a new contract.
The capital has been purchasing water as part of an agreement with the Town of Minden and Douglas County since 2014.
A year and a half ago the city stopped taking Marlette Lake water when the city could no longer treat to drinking water standards, said Darren Schulz, director, Carson City Public Works.
That put the state in a bind.
“Carson City and Storey (County) were basically our only water customers. The city had been decreasing their demand for water and therefore our revenue, creating a shortfall,” said Ward Patrick, director, State of Nevada Public Works.
In late 2018, the state began talking to Truckee Meadows Water Authority about making up the difference, and in April the TMWA Board of Directors authorized its general manager to negotiate a three-year option agreement with the state that would give TMWA the option to 3,090 acre feet of water for a $250,000 fee.
Since then, the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 507 appropriating $200,000 from the state general fund to operate the Marlette Lake Water System, making up the shortfall.
So TMWA and the state stopped working on a short-term agreement, according to John Enloe, TMWA director, Natural Resources, and now a bigger deal involving all the parties is on the table.
“TMWA remains very interested in working with the state, Carson City and Storey County on a long-term water supply agreement, including allocation of the available water resources between the various entities,” said Enloe. “TMWA’s needs and interests are different than those of Carson City and Storey County, and we continue to believe that a cooperative process can result in a win-win outcome for all parties.”
The state has water rights to 3,000 acre feet from Marlette Lake, although less than that may be available depending on the snowpack and precipitation.
“I want to make sure we’re the last in line, along with Storey, to get cut,” said Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell. “We’re willing to work with the state on all these things as long as we know we won’t get hurt.”
In the meantime, Carson City and the state are expected to finalize a two-year agreement that soon will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.
Carson City will likely agree to take water for 75 cents per gallon and use it for groundwater recharge until it can figure out a way to treat it.
“We already have approval for recharge,” said Schulz, but it’s not the optimal solution because a gallon of water injected into the groundwater returns less than a gallon.
The city is also talking to state regulators about returning it to the Carson River for credit.
Public Works has commissioned a study, expected in August, on what it would take to upgrade the Quill Water Treatment Plant to treat Marlette Lake water for drinking water.
Ultimately, and at buildout, the city might like to use as much as 2,000 acre feet from Marlette Lake once it resolves how to treat the water, said Schulz.
The problem is a disinfectant byproduct produced by using chlorine to treat the water for algae. Algae there has increased while federal regulations on the byproduct have become stricter, said Schulz.
The city continues to use about 800 acre feet of water that flows off the East Slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, water that never enters the lake but is considered part of the overall Marlette Lake Water System.
“We’re on track to get this solved,” said Crowell. “I want to thank the state for bearing with us.”
Geoff Dornan contributed to this report.