Photo/Dennis Myers On the fourth day of spring, there were sandbars in the Truckee River as it left Lake Tahoe.

“When you don’t get the recharge in the drought, you start to see wells drying up,” said Steve McKay of McKay Drilling, Inc.

His firm is getting more business as a result.

“There’s definitely some areas that are being affected by the drought, and we have to deepen the wells,” he said. “There’s been some wells drying up in the Callahan ranch area and Virginia Foothills. … There’s also been some issues in the north valleys, Red Rock and Golden Valley, those areas.”

They’re having to “go deeper when you’re drilling down into the water table.”

At Climate Central, a website for journalists who cover climate, Bobby Magill wrote, “The driest places today are the places that have been dry for two or three years or longer: California, northwest Nevada and the southern Great Plains of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, northeast New Mexico and along the Colorado-Kansas border.” He called it a revival of the “dust bowl” template of the early 1930s.

Nevada wildlife officials say rattlesnakes are likely to drift toward urban areas as the drought dries up ground cover that serves as food for the snakes’ prey—field mice and rats—who will head for greener and wetter soil.

“Because of the early spring, they’ve probably been out a little more than usual already,” said Nevada Wildlife Department spokesperson Chris Healy. “What has occurred is that because of the lack of green-up and the lack of moisture, the small rodents that are the snakes’ food base start heading for irrigation ditches, edges of town, and the snakes will follow. Urban residents will be more likely to have an experience with a rattlesnake.”

Places like the Steamboat Ditch Trail and “all these trail areas that have been developed on the edge of town” are likely danger spots, Healy said, and dogs should be kept on leashes because they would be are great risk from snakes. “People are going to have to be aware,” he said.

While the danger from snakes may be a nuisance, he said, the snakes “do a really valuable job keeping those rodents in check.” It just that the drought brings them closer.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension warned that “opportunistic weeds” are expected to be a problem for “parks and recreational areas, public lands, ranches, farms and landscapes.”

“Invasive weeds can out-compete native vegetation, crops and livestock forage,” said Extension specialist Kent McAdoo in a prepared statement. “They can also pose fire hazards, lead to erosion and water quality issues, and impact wildlife habitat.”

Photo/Dennis Myers And more sandbars in the Truckee between Wadsworth and Pyramid.

Bureau of Land Management officials are meeting this week with local advisers in Battle Mountain on the interrelated topics of sage-grouse mitigation, livestock grazing conditions and drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska, reported that the portion of Nevada experiencing extreme to exceptional drought during the four weeks ending April 29 rose from 34 to 39 percent

That agency also reported that the Sierra snowpack—the water supply for the Truckee Meadows—is melting far more rapidly than usual. About half of the snowpack is already gone, yet because there was so little snow during the winter, which created only a small snowpack, downstream reservoirs have benefited very little from the melt. This is happening in a state whose Spanish name means snow covered.

Just as local governments in Nevada are putting together local ordinances for medical marijuana dispensaries, the drought is putting together an unexpected obstacle for the water-hungry medicine. Availability of supply could be compromised. Farmers and ranchers in the state have already experienced two previous drought years for their more traditional crops like alfalfa.

On May 6, the new National Climate Assessment—required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990—reported that climate change is a growing threat that has begun to affect people in their daily lives, as perhaps with the exhausting of wells in western Nevada.

In the report, Nevada was placed in the “southwest” category, which it defined as Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, an area seeing its highest temperature increases in 600 years. This section of the report had considerable information tailored to the Colorado Plateau and California, but not to the Great Basin. However, warnings that did apply to Nevada include health problems caused by heat, increased rangefires, reduced snowpack and stream flows, and threats to agriculture.

While all this was going on, anti-science entities were doing their best to stir things up. Right wing websites—the kind that complain about the slanting of the news—characterized marijuana growers as exacerbating the drought, and others challenged the National Climate Assessment or faulted the federal government generally.

Fox News on National Climate Assessment: “Alarmists offer untrue, unrelenting doom and gloom.”

Newsmax: “Officials: Pot Growers Worsening California’s Drought.”

Conservative Las Vegas columnist Thomas Mitchell: “Federal agencies using drought to deter ranchers.”

The Heartland Institute, a political group funded in part by Exxon Mobil, sent a set of three quotes out by email for reporters to use in their stories on the Climate Assessment. Here’s a sample:

“It would take a whole squadron of environmental activists years to come up with the whoppers told in this report. The report falsely asserts that global warming is causing more extreme weather events, more droughts, more record high temperatures, more wildfires, warmer winters, etc., when each and every one of these false assertions is contradicted by objective, verifiable evidence. It reads like a press release from the Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists—probably because it essentially is a press release from the Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

All three quotes attacked in that fashion, without saying specifically what was wrong with the science in the report.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...