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Wondering about water

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunThe Truckee Donner Public Utility District operates 13 deep water turbine wells. Each well has a sensor that collects and stores well water volume readings throughout the day. Here TPUD Water Superintendent Mark Thomas checks well depth measurements at the Old Greenwood well on Wednesday.
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Robert Davis owns one of six wells that reportedly went dry in a Truckee neighborhood over the summer.

Davis and several other residents blame the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s use of a larger, deeper well to water the nearby Gray’s Crossing’s golf course as the root of their problems.

Davis refused to redrill and is dead-set on making the district fix the problem.



In August, the district offered emergency water via a temporary line from the Prosser Lakeview neighborhood close by. Davis refused the service.

Facing a local uprising from unhappy customers, the utility district on Wednesday conducted a water supply workshop with top decision-makers from the Town of Truckee. Over four hours that were sometimes emotional and often tedious, the Truckee Town Council and the utility’s board of directors reviewed the district’s water resources to find out if there was enough water to go around.



Near the end of Wednesday’s marathon meeting, Truckee Mayor Richard Anderson said town planners should take to heart the residents’ concerns.

“We serve the public poorly if we approve development, and then they run out of water,” Anderson said. “It seems to me that we need to understand what’s going on on Prosser Dam Road.”

Town officials and utility directors listened to many presentations. In one, town manager Tony Lashbrook gave a slide presentation that summed up future growth demands ” over half of the commercial and residential building allowed by Truckee’s master plan have been completed, and no new golf courses have been approved.

In another presentation, the utility’s Water Manager Ed Taylor assured the officials and the 70 persons who attended that two reports ” the 2001 Nimbus and 2002 Kennedy Jenks studies ” predicted accurately the amount of water in the sprawling aquifer that underlies the Martis Valley.

Taylor said three water suppliers draw 22 million gallons a day from the Martis Valley aquifer: the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Placer County Water Agency and Northstar Community Services District. Taylor said the volume may sound like a lot, but said the rate the districts are drawing groundwater allows the aquifer to continually recharge with snow-melt and precipitation, called sustainable yield.

Taylor said studies have shown the basin’s available ground water is in between 24,700 and 34,000 acre feet per year. He said current demand of the aquifer is to supply 16,700 acre-feet, well below the aquifer’s capacity.

Many residents in the audience disputed Taylor’s data, however, including John Eaton, president of the Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation Foundation. A retired neurology professor, Eaton said he thought it was time to get new data.

“It makes me very nervous when they take 32-year-old data and add minimal new data, then come up with more water,” he said. “No one’s going back to the drawing board.”

He said the problem on Prosser Dam Road is an indicator of things to come.

“Shallow wells are the leading indicators, while the deep wells are lagging indicators,” Eaton said.

At one point Wednesday, the district’s legal counsel Steve Gross said the utility is under no legal obligation to provide Prosser Dam area residents with water. Interim General Manager John Ulrich suggested the small number of affected homeowners hook into district water supply at their own expense.


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