The Water We Drink
Regional Drinking Water Providers
The largest provider of drinking water in the Truckee Meadows is Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), which serves approximately 425,000 people in the region. It is a community-owned utility, governed by a Board of Directors comprised of elected representatives from Reno, Sparks and Washoe County.
While there are many smaller drinking water companies in the metropolitan and outlying areas, Great Basin Water Company and Sun Valley General Improvement District provide water to the majority of the people not served by TMWA.
Large or small, all municipal drinking water companies must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Water Drinking Act and testing is consistently monitored by Washoe County Health District and the State of Nevada. Water Quality Reports are submitted annually to the EPA as well. These reports, as well as information about each utility company can be found online.
Making Water Safe to Drink
All of the nation’s 170,000 drinking water systems must meet federal and state standards designed to protect public health.
The treatment process, in general, involves four processes.
- Coagulation and flocculation - Chemicals are added to the water. They bind with dirt and dissolved particles, forming larger particles called floc.
- Sedimentation - The floc is heavy, so it settles to the bottom of the tank.
- Filtration - The clear water on top passes through filters composed of sand, gravel and charcoal to remove dissolved particles such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals.
- Disinfection - Chlorine or chloramine is added to kill parasites, bacteria, viruses and germs.
With these steps, clean, disinfected water is ready for distribution.
Each fall, residents of the Truckee Meadows can tour Chalk Bluff Water Treatment the region’s primary treatment facility owned by TMWA to become more familiar with the process.
Understanding Water Quality Standards
While many countries specify water quality standards for their own nations, not all standards come with a legal basis for enforcement. In the United States we do, and enforcement is based on regulations within the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act.
Under this Act, over 90 contaminants in drinking water are monitored with defined limits to protect human health. The Act also gives each state the opportunity to set and enforce their own drinking water standards, but only if the minimum standards are as stringent as the EPA’s. In Nevada, the Act is enforced by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for licensing and monitoring public water systems in the state. The EPA mandates that all monitoring results be available to the public. Click here to read TMWA's Annual Water Quality Reports.
Do water quality rules ever change?
Yes, every five years the EPA uses the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program (UCMP) to determine if any new contaminants should be monitored under the Safe Water Drinking Act. In this way, new chemicals in the environment that have the potential to impact human health can be identified and science-based approaches defined for treatment.
How Water Gets Delivered
Water distribution systems are a multi-faceted series of pipes, pumps, valves, storage tanks, reservoirs, and meters that carry drinking water from centralized treatment plants or wells to consumer taps. A well-run distribution system ensures consistent delivery of high-quality water with sufficient water pressure for residential, businesses and industrial users.
As the largest drinking water company in the Truckee Meadows, Truckee Meadows Water Authority's (TMWA) distribution system is comprised of two water treatment plants, (with a third coming online in 2020), more than 2,600 miles of water main pipelines, 93 booster pump stations, 140 pressure regulator stations, 92 storage tanks and two treated water reservoirs. The system is continually maintained, with routine replacements and upgrades to keep an uninterrupted supply of high-quality water flowing to its customers.
Each year, the system’s pipes and facilities are assessed for rehabilitation. Investment planned for infrastructure maintenance and replacement is a continual process. For example, since TMWA was formed in June 2001, approximately $600 million has been invested in making the system more efficient, diverse and dependable. TMWA’s approach to investment in its drinking water system can be found here: Capital Improvement Plan.