Protecting the River

Our Urban Watershed

A watershed is a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers that eventually flow into the same body of water or basin.

Many watersheds drain into oceans, but the Truckee River Watershed does not. Snowmelt and rainfall within this 3,060 square mile watershed instead flows inland into the Great Basin, with a natural termination point at Pyramid Lake.

It's important to remember that our cities and towns are also part of the watershed. In urban areas runoff from snow, rain, and even sprinkler systems can pick up pollutants that can eventually end up in our waterways.

Locally, the Truckee Meadows Stormwater Quality Management Program exists to coordinate efforts from cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County to reduce and eliminate run-off pollution. This program helps to further the region's Integrated Source Water and Watershed Protection Plan for the prevention of future contamination of our surface and groundwater sources.

The image above identifies all of the Truckee River watershed tributaries, sourcewater protection areas, irrigation ditches, and groundwater basins in Reno and Sparks. An interactive version of this map provides views with street-level detail and serves as a centralized reference for entities directly involved with watershed and stormwater management in the region.

Additionally, the Nevada Department of Transportation, Stormwater Division has active programs to address contamination from stormwater runoff from our roads and neighborhoods. To become more familiar with what stormwater is and how it impacts water quality, visit NDOT's Stormwater Public Education resources.

Keeping our Urban Watershed Clean

The majority of urban watershed pollution is comprised of oil, grease, biomatter, and chemicals that come from non-point sources such as driveways, roads, septic systems, and lawns.

Non-point source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ground water.

Fortunately, we can all be part of the solution. There are also things you can do at home to help make a big difference.

At home and in your neighborhood:

  • Keep your trash or recycling from blowing out of your bins.
  • Make sure your sprinklers aren’t watering the sidewalk or street.
  • Test your soil before applying fertilizer, your landscaping might not need feeding.
  • Make sure you know how to dispose of fertilizers and pesticides properly, as they are considered household hazardous waste.
  • Wash your car at a car wash instead of the driveway, car washes collect and recycle the contaminated water so it doesn’t flow into a storm drain.
  • Pick up after your pet on walks. Dog feces can contain up to 23 million fecal coliform bacteria that should stay out of our water supply.

In community spaces and open areas:

Become an informed: Learn about the One Truckee River Plan to protect and restore the Truckee River.

Keep it clean: Volunteer on a Truckee River Cleanup with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.

Enjoy our meadows: Follow the urban wetland restoration project at the Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area, on what is formerly known as Rosewood Lakes Golf Course in east Reno.

Beyond city limits: Witness the Truckee River watershed improvements stewarded by The Nature Conservancy, upstream at Independence Lake and downstream at McCarran Ranch.

Applying for a Truckee River Fund Grant

Established in 2005 by Truckee Meadows Water Authority, the Truckee River Fund (TRF) is a fund to protect and enhance the Truckee River and its watershed. This resource is managed by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Request for proposals (RFP) occurs on an annual or semi-annual basis. Projects are reviewed by the TRF Advisory Committee and then undergo a two-step approval: first from the TMWA Board of Directors and then from the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. To be added to the RFP distribution list, call the Community Foundation of Western Nevada at 775.333.5499.

To date, over 200 projects have been approved by the Truckee River Fund. To be eligible for funding, each project must also secure matching funds from a partner organization or agency. Projects must be specific to protecting the Truckee River.

Below: Grant #206 - Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area, Planning Phase (formerly Rosewood Lakes Golf Course)

Grant #206: Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area, Planning Phase (formerly Rosewood Lakes Golf Course)

Participate and Learn


Ribbon Cutting: One Truckee River Demonstration Garden

Tuesday, May 21st 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Lake Park, 40 Coleman Drive

Join One Truckee River for a ribbon cutting and walking tour of a new River-Friendly Living Demonstration at Lake Park. It is a free and family-friendly event. The tour will feature ways to improve home landscaping designs and plants to prevent wasteful water run-off. For more information, visit

Irrigation Workshop - Drip System Maintenance Made Easy

Thursday, May 23 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Attendees will be introduced to the basic concepts of operating, maintaining and repairing a typical residential drip system. Attendees under 18 must be accompanies by an adult.

Both workshops will be held at 1355 Capital Blvd in Reno. Please rsvp by email or call 775-834-8290.

Understand Your Drinking Water-- From Tahoe to Tap!

Wednesday, May 8th 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Glendale Water Treatment Plant, 1205 South 21st St in Sparks

Come ready to learn how water flowing from Lake Tahoe becomes high quality drinking water for over 440,000 people in the Reno/Sparks area. Includes walking up stairs and uneven surfaces. Space is limited, so please rsvp or call 775-834-8290. All attendees will be required to sign a liability waiver. Those under 18 years of age can attend, but must be accompanied by an adult.

Smart About Water Day is Saturday May 4th!

10 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

McKinley Arts and Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive in Reno

Get all your questions about water answered by water experts in our community. From long-term water planning with ways to conserve water this summer, the event is a family friendly event with interactive exhibits, food trucks and informative presentations including a Water Supply Outlook that will give you insight into what this past winter means for our drinking water supply.


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