The river stewardship issues affecting the Truckee River watershed from the headwaters around Lake Tahoe, CA down to its terminus in Pyramid Lake, Nevada are both complex and diverse. Two of the biggest environmental challenges in the watershed exist in the very top and very bottom of the watershed.
Upper watershed challenges around Lake Tahoe, reducing sediment and nutrient loading to restore Tahoe clarity, and controlling invasive species, are relatively well known, and have received a tremendous amount of state, federal, and local funding to address these issues. The work is not yet done, but the mission is clear, relatively non-controversial, and the programs and partnerships are mostly in place to achieve that mission.
Lower end of the watershed challenges, are more complex. Resolving the issues around legacy sources of pollution and the over allocation of water in the lower Truckee River watershed is still a work in progress. These issues affect a large number of stakeholders, with a very diverse and often conflicting range of interests, ranging from diversions to farmers in the Carson River drainage to sustaining native fish species in Pyramid Lake (the inland sea terminus of the Truckee River).
East of Reno, Nevada approximately a third of the Truckee River in a normal year is diverted into the Carson River drainage, to support irrigated agriculture. This diversion at Derby Dam, taking water out of one watershed to augment water in another watershed, was the very first water project in the nation implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1906. About 6% (in a normal year) is also diverted out of the Truckee river to provide drinking water to almost 400,000 residents in east Reno. Almost half of that is returned to the river after sewage treatment.
Managing outflows from Lake Tahoe and numerous reservoirs in the watershed to support a wide variety of interests, is a delicate and complex exercise. Through both drought and floods, water flows are managed to maintain optimal lake and reservoir levels, provide river flows to support fisheries and whitewater rafting, prevent flooding to communities along the river, and provide established water allocations for drinking water supply and irrigation. A more inclusive process for decision making regarding water flow management through the Truckee River Basin Water Group (TRBWG), is currently under development.
The contrast between the communities along the river are great, ranging from the very popular outdoor recreation communities of South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, and Truckee, the urban and industrial environment of Reno and Sparks, to the remote and relatively isolated community of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
There are numerous entities throughout the watershed working to restore and protect water quality and effectively manage water quantity throughout the watershed. The links below will take you to the websites of the river/watershed stewardship partners we are highlighting through our project, to connect communities to the issues affecting their back yard river. Please use these links to get informed and get engaged!