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Smart About Water

A place to understand approaches to water-resource management in the Truckee Meadows.

Smart About Water

Atmospheric River Pushes Tahoe Above Natural Rim

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport water vapor outside of the tropics. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

While atmospheric rivers are responsible for great quantities of rain that can produce flooding, they also contribute to beneficial increases in snowpack. Locally, this weather phenomenon is attributed to bringing record levels of snowpack to the Sierra basins and northern Nevada at the end of 2022.

As a result, Lake Tahoe’s water level is once again above its natural rim. The dashboard below displays an elevation update (see "Current Lake Tahoe Level" card), as well as current water storage held by Truckee Meadows Water Authority (click on the "Upstream Water Storage" card to see breakdown by reservoir).

See current snowpack levels in the Lake Tahoe basin and the Truckee River basin, courtesy of the USDA’s National Water and Climate Center.

Atmospheric River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Truckee River and Tahoe Basins: Daily Water Update

Daily SNOTEL Basin Index

Year-to-date indexes represent % of normal snow water equivalent compared to median value on this day for the 1981-2010 period.

This provisional data is provided by the Natural Resources Conversation Service, and is subject to revision. Null percentages mean there is no measurable snowpack on that day.

Current Truckee River Flow

A key location where Truckee River flows are measured (in cubic feet per second or cfs) is near the California-Nevada state line, at the USGS Farad gaging station. This is the gaging station where required rates of flow are measured.

From March through September the required rate of flow is set for 500 cfs, and between October and February required rate of flow is 400 cfs. Flow rates are managed by the Federal Water Master and all data is provided by the United States Geological Survey.

For responsible recreational enthusiasts who monitor these flows, this map outlines all access points, features, diversions and portage options along the Truckee River from Truckee, CA to Tracy, NV.

Upstream Water Storage

Volume of water is measured in Acre Feet (AF). While many stakeholders also store water upstream, information shown here only reflects the upstream reserves held by Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Water stored by TMWA is updated daily:

Boca Reservoir264 Acre Feet
Donner Lake*3,057 Acre Feet
Independence Lake*13,266 Acre Feet
Prosser Reservoir0 Acre Feet
Stampede Reservoir41,913 Acre Feet
Lake Tahoe0 Acre Feet

*TMWA owns 100% of the storage at both Donner and Independence Lakes.

Current Lake Tahoe Level

The Dam at Tahoe City controls the amount of water released into the Truckee River. It can retain 6.1 feet of Lake Tahoe, or at maximum 744,600 acre feet of water. This maximum volume is met when water behind the dam reaches an elevation of 6229.10 feet.

Water Treatment Plant Production

Water from the Truckee Meadows is treated at two locations: the Chalk Bluff Treatment Plant in northwest Reno and the Glendale Water Treatment Plant in Sparks. Treatment plant output varies by season, as peak summertime customer demand can be as much as 4 times typical wintertime customer demand.

Many residents in the region are also served by groundwater wells.

Hydroelectric Production

The Truckee River is an excellent source of hydroelectric power. In fact, Fleish, Verdi and Washoe hydroelectric power plants produce an average of 50,000 kWh per year. This clean energy offsets the operational power costs for Truckee Meadows Water Authority and is a key contributing factor for keeping water rates as low as possible for customers. Benefits to the environment are sizable as well. Every day that the hydroelectric plants run at full capacity, over 90,500 pounds of CO2 emissions are effectively eliminated from our atmosphere.

Participate and Learn

2023

Events Coming Soon

Workshops will begin again in April! Dates will be determined and announced by February 1.

Partners

Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA)
City of Reno
Washoe County
City of Sparks