The Future of Our Water
Updated: May 14, 2022
This is a photo of the treatment plant where raw water from Little Deer Creek gets turned into what comes out of our taps.
We've had the water rights to Little Deer Creek for over a hundred years. In good years, winter rains charge the watershed, and we get more than we can store. But we haven't had many good years lately. By August, our source on Little Deer Creek usually dries up.
Our town needs about 900 acre feet a year. Little Deer Creek can supply only about 400. The rest, more than half, we buy from NID (Nevada Irrigation District) under a contract that guarantees us "surplus water" in years when NID declares a surplus (read here what that means). The rates NID charges us can vary.
Drought and growing demand have strained our resources. What can we do to ensure a steady, secure, and adequate supply?
First, we have additional water resources. The city has several wells that could be hooked up to the treatment plant. We need to test those wells and find out how much flow we can expect from them.
Second, we need to retain the rain we get when we get it. And I don't mean by building more dams and reservoirs. The biggest reservoir we have is right beneath our feet: the soil. If we manage the City's public lands better, investing in meadow restoration and thinning the urban forest, we can store in the soil what is now winter run-off.
Third, we need to encourage better water conservation. The Nevada City Newsletter included in your water bill this month lists six ways you can conserve water at home, including water-wise taps and toilets. Wise use of potable water must become a habit, not a special case.
Even if we take these steps, we will need NID for some portion of our supply. We must fully engage with NID to make sure we get the best deal possible for our city. They are already drafting their Plan for Water, which will describe the expected supply and demand for the next 50 years. We should be at the table in those discussions.
There is no future without water. To secure our future we must act now.