Learn More

Check out our new interactive GIS StoryMap and learn about:

– The creeks of Truckee Meadows (with Photos!)

– Great local Hiking Trails

– History of the Truckee River and restoration projects

– Local Water and Wastewater treatment facilities, and much more…

Learn about Stormwater and Watersheds

Learn more about stormwater and watersheds from our educational videos and our information library.

Rain water running off a metal roof

What is Stormwater?

Stormwater includes any runoff produced by a storm event, snow melt runoff, surface runoff and drainage.
A bridge over the Truckee River in downtown Reno, Nevada on a cloudy day

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

BMPs can be any number of actions taken to reduce pollution that could be associated with stormwater. Check out our Stormwater Management/Residental webpage to learn how YOU can help keep our Watershed clean!

Watch and Learn

Check out these videos produced by SWPCC, City of Reno, and the Carson Water Subconservancy District to learn all about stormwater and watershed protection.

Stormwater Academy
(Construction & Public Works)

An important part of the SWPCC is to train Public Works maintenance staff and the construction industry on incorporating Best Management Practices (BMPs) and prevent pollutants from reaching the Storm Drain System. Check out this Stormwater Academy video to learn more!

Truckee River Water Quality: Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination

Learn about how our region’s Environmental Control Officers help protect the Truckee River from illegal pollution.

Re-Know Minute:
Stormwater

An important part of the SWPCC is to train Public Works maintenance staff and the construction industry on incorporating Best Management Practices (BMPs) and prevent pollutants from reaching the Storm Drain System. Check out this Stormwater Academy video to learn more!

Carson River Watershed – Watershed Education Video Library

The Carson River Watershed is the Truckee River Watershed’s neighbor to the south. Check out Carson Water Subconservancy District’s (CWSD) Youtube channel for an extensive library of videos covering watershed science, pollution prevention, floodplain management, climate change, and much more

Information Library

Use the drop down buttons to learn more information about Stormwater and Watersheds.

The Truckee River is the sole outlet of Lake Tahoe, and travels 140 miles through Northern California and Nevada, draining 3,120 square miles of land (the Watershed) into Pyramid Lake. That includes all of the light green colored land shown on the map! Throughout the Truckee River Watershed, dozens of creeks/tributaries, drainages, and storm drains contribute to the River, collecting stormwater from the mountains, Truckee Meadows, and high desert, as well as runoff directly from the Town of Truckee and Cities of Reno and Sparks.

The Truckee River is one of Nevada’s most significant natural and cultural resources, delivering 80% of all drinking water to residents in the Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County areas, and it’s the only significant source of water to Pyramid Lake, a sensitive and valuable “desert terminus lake.” The River provides a significant contribution to the annual agricultural water needs of the Fernley and Fallon areas, including the Lahontan Reservoir. Additionally, the River provides a rich source of habitat for many species of plants and wildlife, supporting fishing and countless other recreational activities along the river.

View our Truckee Meadows Watershed GIS StoryMap and learn about the local tributaries that contribute to the Truckee River! Use the map to find local hiking trails and parks, and read through the story to learn about how rivers function, restoration on the Truckee River, and how we clean and reuse wastewater in the region.

The Truckee Meadows Stormwater Program conducts a robust stormwater sampling program, sampling over 15 sites throughout the Truckee Meadows during both storm runoff events and normal base flow. Local creeks and large storm drain outfalls are sampled prior to entering the Truckee River and analyzed for a standard suite of contaminants. Long term data analysis is used to track trends in improving (or worsening) water quality, determine our region’s compliance with the MS4 Permit, and help inform decisions on future water quality improvement projects. Check out the Annual Stormwater Monitoring Reports for full report findings.

Check back for a new watershed geocaching activity soon!

Going back through time, through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the health of the river ecosystem was not understood, and was not considered a priority in management practices. Relatively modern science has shown that old practices were very damaging to the ecosystem.

Historically, the major concern surrounding our local streams and river water was flooding. Because all of our outdoor water (rain, snowmelt, and over-watering runoff) runs down into the creeks and river, the common belief among engineers was that we needed to get it out of our community as quickly as possible. Water was seen as a liability. It could flood homes and cause damage to streets and other infrastructure, the community feared. As a result, the Truckee River was historically straightened and channelized. The curves were taken out of it, and it was put into a straight line to move water through before flooding occurred.

Agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as local and state agencies, now understand that the river is a dynamic system. This dynamism means that the river behaves like a river: it flows, meanders, jumps over the banks, forms gravel islands, and floods. Plants growing along the river not only look pretty and provide habitat for fish, bugs, birds, and mammals, but they help hold the banks together in large flows, and take up nutrients (like those in fertilizers) from the water, providing some cleansing to our river. When the river was straightened, the dynamic water still wanted to take its twisty, torturous route. As a result, the water carved out the new banks and caused erosion. When the upstream cities developed, they sent more runoff water downstream immediately after storms. The river began to receive large pulses of high-energy water. This water carves out the bottom of the river, or “incises” it, causing more erosion to happen. With all of the erosion that has happened in our river, the water levels dropped too low, and plants growing on the banks could no longer keep their roots in the water in the lower reaches. Much of the riverside (or riparian) vegetation died and the riparian forest went away. Downstream, the river’s end, Pyramid Lake, receives our river water and all of our runoff and sediment from erosion also. This is of concern to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and others interested in protecting threatened and endangered fish and other species which rely upon clean river water and spawning gravels.

Simple, yet large-scale projects can help us to restore the river’s benefits. The City of Reno, City of Sparks, The Nature Conservancy, and other partners embarked upon a long-term restoration project for the Lower Truckee River. With help from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Cities obtained a large grant ($9 million, from the Desert Terminus Lakes fund) and is working with other agencies to restore the lower river in a series of projects. The Nature Conservancy has been instrumental in designing and managing construction of restoration projects along with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, providing construction management and guiding the projects.

This is the list of projects included on the BOR grant, with McCarran Ranch being the first completed and monitored for effectiveness. The first five projects of the eleven named are: McCarran Ranch, 102 Ranch, Lockwood, Mustang Ranch and Below Derby Dam.

As you will find on the links above, these projects include reconnecting plants with the river, slowing the water down to allow for the riverine forest to regrow, providing bank stabilization and nutrient uptake, and recreating a balanced habitat for sensitive species on our lower river.

Watershed Projects

Learn about recent SWPCC Watershed Projects and their progress below.

Concrete riverwalk along the flowing Truckee River in downtown Reno, Nevada

Chalk Creek Subwatershed

A dirt ditch in between bushes at Chalk Creek in Reno, Nevada filled with dirt, large rocks, and lined with netting

Increased runoff from urbanization has increased the hydromodification rate and led to severe erosion at some sites along Chalk Creek. In the 2016 Truckee Meadows Watershed Assessment Report and the 2020 Watershed Plan for Tributaries to the Truckee River, Chalk Creek was listed as a high priority for implementation. 

In 2020, the NDEP 319(h) Grant was utilized to kick start the Chalk Creek Channel Restoration and Stabilization Project and complete the design. The final planset can be viewed below. Funding for construction project is still being sourced. Please check back for project progress and a future construction schedule.

McKinley Arts & Cultural Center Demonstration LID Project

Illustration of the process of low impact development; a rainy garden and the impact of water flowing into the soil and underneath the ground
The City of Reno completed a significant Low Impact Development (LID) project at the McKinley Arts & Cultural Center, breaking ground in 2009. This project includes rain gutters to capture rainfall from the large rooftop, and constructing “softscapes,” including a rain garden (depressed landscape area), and a pervious concrete parking lot, which receive and infiltrates rainwater from the western rooftop. Stormwater that runs off urban rooftops, parking lots, driveways and other “hardscapes” can carry lawn chemicals, oil drips from cars, sediment, trash, other harmful chemicals to organisms in the river. Since urban stormwater travels quickly into the stormdrain system, and is routed straight to the Truckee River, local LID projects created a bio-friendly approach to stormwater management, replacing hardscapes with softscapes. Softscapes infiltrates and treats stormwater naturally, preventing “urban slobber” pollution from entering the River. Two 2010 YouTube videos capture the project well; learn about the parking lot or learn about the rain garden. To learn more about pervious concrete and many other LID technologies, view the Low Impact Design Manual, and download the LID Design Guidance Worksheets.

Get Involved

Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming events or view our volunteer opportunities.

A splash of water