Learning About Water
NID legal adviser Jeff Meith explains California water rights during the Nevada Irrigation District Water Summit on Thursday evening (July 24). About 250 people turned out for the event held in the Don Baggett Theater at Nevada Union High School
GRASS VALLEY – An audience of about 250 turned out on Thursday evening (July 24) to learn about challenges the Nevada Irrigation District faces regarding the current drought and our changing water future.
The two-hour NID Water Summit, held in the Don Baggett Theater at Nevada Union High School, included presentations on the district’s water system and operations, issues involving water rights, changing rules and regulations, and the water supply impacts of climate change.
“The district’s water storage is not currently adequate to endure back to back dry years,” said NID Water Operations Manager Chip Close, who noted the region, is now in its third dry year. “Our system relies heavily on the water in the snowpack.”
NID General Manager Rem Scherzinger said a changing and warming climate is bringing less snow and more rain. He said more rain and less snow at higher elevations will impact the district’s ability to collect water. “Most of our reservoirs are up at the higher elevations; we need to look at more mid-range storage,” he said.
NID legal counsel Jeff Meith explained the pre-1914 and post-1914 water rights the district uses to supply its customers. The district’s post-1914, or “junior” water rights to divert water have been suspended under the State Water Board’s May 27 curtailment order, but the pre-1914 “senior” rights remain unaffected, he said.
“I’m from the old school that says water rights are property rights,” said Meith. He recounted a series of drought actions taken at the state level this year, from the governor’s drought emergency declaration on Jan. 17 to the state board’s emergency water use regulations of July 15. He said the state rules have been confusing and difficult to enforce for local agencies.
Scherzinger said NID service areas in Nevada and Placer counties are getting through the drought with customers doing a great job of water conservation. NID has asked all customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent. “Our urban water use is down 16 percent over the past four months,” he said.
The general manager drew rounds of applause when he said, ”We don’t sell our water outside the district; we keep it here where it performs for us,” and when he talked about NID’s unique project to remove Gold Rush-era mercury from the Bear River watershed while reclaiming valuable water storage space.
Scherzinger said NID is studying a range of opportunities for increasing water storage. These include sediment removal from existing reservoirs, raising Rollins Reservoir by five feet and considering new storage sites. “When it comes to new water storage, it’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said.
The Water Summit was recorded and is expected to be posted on the NID website (www.nidwater.com) in coming days. It was also broadcast live on Nevada City radio station KVMR-89.5 FM (www.kvmr.org), which plans a podcast to make it available for later listening, a link will also be provided on NID’s website.