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Enough water to go around

by Sheila Gardner

There’s enough groundwater in the Carson River to sustain agriculture and future growth for the next 30 years in the river basin, according to a report prepared by the four-county Carson River Water Subconservancy District.

“The report did show there is water in the system to meet those kind of growth demands,” said subconservancy general manager Ed James. “What’s critical to the ranching community is that we can meet those demands without having to go out there and purchase all those surface water rights.”

James outlined the results of the plan for Minden Town Board members on Wednesday.

Minden is one of the largest water rights holders in Carson Valley with 12,000-acre feet. An acre foot is enough to cover an acre of land a foot deep or provide adequate water to a family of four for a year.

James said using a 3.5 percent growth rate indicates the population in Carson Valley will increase six-fold by 2050, from 31,000 to 173,000.

“You cannot stop growth by saying you are going to cut off the water supply,” James said. “Overall, there is enough water in the system to meet that future growth. The question is do you want that growth?”

The report also raises the issue of how the water will be distributed in Carson City and Lyon, Churchill and Douglas counties, the areas served by the river and the subconservancy district.

“A connection between Douglas County and Carson City seems to be something everyone wants, but no one wants to pay for,” James said.

He said in an interview Thursday distribution is the “$64,000 question.”

“There is enough water in the system as a whole,”James said. “The demands and the water supply are not always in the same location.”

Phase two of the report will look at what is most cost effective, either moving water around or developing local resources, James said.

“This provides us with the foundation for beginning work on phase two,” James said.

“I’ll go out to meet with groups to talk about the water picture for the entire watershed. This report does not look at water quality. That will be looked at more closely in phase two. It also doesn’t look at wastewater as a resource, yet we know that’s going to be the case. As you start developing and more growth occurs, the wastewater becomes a resource.”

Minden Town Board Chairman Bob Hadfield encouraged James to bring subconservancy directors to a meeting to discuss the town’s role as a water supplier.

“Even though they seem to have already allocated our resources, they never come talk to us,” Hadfield said. “The county has less water than we do. They have problematic water systems. The county only has something to gain. We have yet to learn what we’re going to gain by this.”