- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Gov. Brian Sandoval kicked off a three-day conference focused on drought and what can be done about it, telling more than 100 attendees Monday that Nevada has a solid track record for conservation but needs to do even more to address the dry spell.

Sandoval reflected on disappointingly short ski seasons and vanishing lakes he’s seen on his travels throughout the state. He said he’s hoping the El Nino trend will bring a wet winter but the state needs to develop long-term solutions for using water wisely.

“This is not a problem we can leave for future generations,” Sandoval said at the summit in Carson City. “It’s going to come back. It’s our moment, and it’s our time to lead.”

The Republican governor, who called for the creation of a Nevada Drought Forum in April, expects to take proposals from the summit and develop a drought response plan likely to be revealed in his State of the State speech in January. He said solutions already being discussed include ramping up water storage, working to reuse water, changing state laws and overcoming homeowners association restrictions.

“I do like to hear about our success stories,” Sandoval said, calling the state a leader in wise water use, “but I also want to hear where we need to work.”

The summit, which brings federal and state officials together with tourism and business leaders, environmental groups and energy companies, will feature reports from workshops held around the state in the past few months. Drought Forum panelists heard from farmers, businesses, state officials, interest groups and casinos who discussed the costs, effects and successes dealing with the record regional dry spell that’s now in its 15th year.

State Climatologist Douglas Boyle reported last month that Nevada’s summer was wetter than usual, but winter mountain snowpack was below-normal. Nevada’s year-round, average temperature statewide was more than 53 degrees in 2014 compared with a normal average of 49.5 degrees, making it the warmest year on record.

State and federal climate officials said Monday that it’s hard to predict how much precipitation the El Nino trend will bring this winter, or whether a competing trend called “The Blob” will mute its impact.

Sandoval said he called the gathering so the diverse group of participants - including major businesses, tribes, water authorities, elected officials, hunting groups and ranchers - could share ideas and debate solutions.

“One of the most important aspects of successfully addressing drought conditions is to communicate well across all sectors so that we can work together to make the best use of the water available to us,” Sandoval said. “Where can this be more important than in Nevada, the driest state in the nation?”

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