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TMWA’s Water Resource Plan—Mapping our Community’s Water Future

John Erwin 
Director, Natural Resources Planning & Management

John ErwinTMWA reviews and updates its “Water Resource Plan” (Plan) every five years—a document we are currently in the process of updating. The current draft version is the “2016-3035 Water Resource Plan,” which will replace the “2010-2030 Water Resource Plan.” Each Plan looks out 20 years in order to ensure both current and future needs are met. Why 20 years? Given the amount of time that’s often required to plan and construct major water supply projects, a 20-year planning horizon provides a reasonable window to incorporate potential changes and allow sufficient time for TMWA and the community to adapt. The five-year updates are useful in helping TMWA continually evaluate how its operations will address the economic and environmental conditions that may impact our area.

Customers who are truly interested in understanding how TMWA manages our community’s water resources will find almost all of what they are looking for in the Plan. Given the ongoing drought in our region, there has been a heightened interest throughout our community regarding the management of our water resources. People are understandably concerned about the short-term availability of water during the drought and the long-term sustainability of supplies as our community grows. The response to these concerns can be both complex and the subject of intense debate. The water plan provides understanding of where our water supplies are acquired, how they are managed, and how those supplies are delivered in drought and non-drought years. It can also help customers make informed decisions about their water use which can, in turn, help them with conservation and in reducing their water bills.

What’s in the Plan?

TMWA’s water resource plan lays the foundation for an understanding of the region’s water supply system and summarizes the history of municipal water supply in the Truckee Meadows up to and including the formation of TMWA. The plan also presents the following topics at some length:

  • Legislative directives that modified regional water resource planning for the Truckee Meadows and led to the creation of the Western Regional Water Commission
  • Current population trends and their potential impact on future water demands and resource requirements
  • Uses the Truckee River water supplies during the historical 1987-1994 drought period as the basis for prudent water supply planning for the Truckee Meadows
  • Outline of TMWA’s approach to conservation and tactics to be used in the event of drought
  • Ongoing analysis of future water supply options to meet the region’s economic development

Though each section of the Plan can stand on its own, the pieces are interconnected much like TMWA’s water mains—which is why you will find topics such as water supplies, climate change and legal mandates discussed in several contexts within the various sections of the Plan.

How You Can Participate

Public involvement in the Plan-update process is important because we want the document to be of use to our customers and to help customers understand how their water system works. Your involvement and feedback will ensure the Plan is as meaningful and useful as possible.

You are invited to drop in to one of our remaining open houses (listed here) and talk one-on-one with TMWA staff members who will discuss the Plan update and answer any questions you may have. All customer comments and input will be collected and presented to the TMWA Board of Directors at a future Board meeting.

If you are unable to attend one of our open house sessions, feel free to share your comments and questions by calling our Natural Resources department at (775) 834-8049 or emailing naturalresources@tmwa.com.

To see a draft copy of the 2016-2035 Water Resource Plan, click here.


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Late Summer Lawn Care Tips


Heidi A. Kratsch
Northern Area Horticulture Specialist,
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

As we start moving toward September and the temperatures begin to cool, you can expect lawns to start looking better and to come out of their relative summer dormancy. When this happens, you should start mowing and watering less and also consider a late-summer application of nitrogen fertilizer. This late-summer application should be done when the average daily temperature for three or more consecutive days is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This promotes a vigorous, healthy root system and a hardy crown without encouraging shoot growth. Determine the average daily temperature by adding the day’s high and low temperatures and dividing the result by two.  Avoid “winterizer” fertilizers as those are only for warm-season grasses. We grow mainly cool-season grasses in our area (Kentucky Blue and Tall Fescue).

Here are some additional drought lawn-care tips from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Landscape Association:

  • The best time to water is when it’s cooler—in the early morning or late evening—to avoid evaporation. Remember: there is no watering from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until after Labor Day, September 7th.
  • Don’t water the lawn on windy days; much of it will just be lost to evaporation.
  • Leave your grass long. Longer grass promotes a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation and fewer weeds.
  • Water in multiple cycles of 6 minutes each with one hour in between each cycle to allow water to soak into the soil and create a deep, healthy root system.
  • Step on your lawn. If the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water.
  • Take a sprinkler break. Grass really doesn’t need to be bright green to survive in the summer.
  • Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes or hoses. If you see water pooling in your landscape or you have large wet areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a pen (1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,000 gallons of water per month, according to EPA’s WaterSense.

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TMWA Water Supply Report: Demand Growing but Still Below Last Year

BillHauck-BlogShotEven with the weakening of the heavy storm cycle we enjoyed throughout May and June, we are still seeing a noticeable reduction in demand compared to 2013. Customer demand, or consumption, averaged 92.4 million gallons a day (MGD) last week. While this was up from the previous week, it was still down significantly (-19%) compared to the same week in 2013, our baseline savings year. We use 2013 as our baseline for comparing water savings because that was the last year TMWA operated normally and did not ask customers for additional conservation. These have historically been our peak demand weeks of the year, so it’s more important than ever that the community stays focused on reducing their water use by at least 10%.

Flows at the CA/NV state line were running at about 90 cubic feet per second (CFS) as of Monday morning, approximately half of which has been released from our drought reserves in Stampede Reservoir. We have been releasing reserves since June 19th. Through Sunday, July 19, TMWA has released roughly 9% of the 27,000 acre-feet of upstream drought reserves available at the beginning of the year (2,447 acre-feet between Boca, Stampede, Donner and Independence lake reservoirs).

Given how far we are into the drought, I’m excited to see how engaged the community has remained with conservation. Between the rain and the community’s efforts, we are well on our way to meeting our savings goal of 5,000 acre feet. Keep up the good work; we still have quite a bit of summer to go.

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TMWA Water Supply Report: Customers Reduce Use by 19% in May

BillHauck-BlogShotRecent rains and a positive response to TMWA’s drought-awareness messaging had a marked impact on water consumption in the month of May. Customer demand is down. Total consumption for the month of May was 19% lower compared to the same period in our baseline-use year of 2013. That’s over 1,500 acre-feet, or roughly half a billion gallons in savings.

Note: we are using 2013 as our baseline year for comparing water savings because that was the last year that TMWA operated normally and did not ask customers for additional conservation. TMWA’s current request that all customers reduce their water use by at least 10% is based on 2013 use. I mention this because some customers who reduced their use by 10% in 2014 have asked if they need to save an additional 10% on top of that this year. The answer is no. If you dialed down your use by 10% last year, just keep doing what you’re doing. Of course it won’t hurt to look for additional savings, too.

From a big-picture perspective, May storms improved river flows enough so the Federal Water Master was able to keep irrigation ditches open weeks longer than anticipated. This was a big help to parks, golf courses and others in our area that rely on untreated, non-TMWA water for irrigation. The added precipitation also allowed TMWA to delay the need to bring production wells on line and to hold off the release of any upstream drought reserves. This is great news because, essentially, every day we can delay the release of upstream reservoir storage, is water in the bank that we can keep upstream for later use if needed.

We are thrilled with the help we’re getting from the community so far this year. Customers are clearly mindful of the drought and are doing their part to minimize water use. They responded to the rain showers in May-meaning they turned off their sprinklers. This is water that TMWA did not have to produce and deliver (saved). This also saved on groundwater pumping.


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Spring is the Time to Prepare Grass to be More Drought Tolerant

Andy-GebhardtAs sprinkler systems are turned on across the Truckee Meadows, TMWA would like to remind everyone that spring is a critical time for conditioning lawns for a dry, hot summer. In response to the ongoing drought, TMWA is calling on customers to reduce water use by at least 10%. This means lawns, shrubs and trees should all be getting less water.  Knowing that this will also add additional stress on plants, TMWA is working with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Landscape Association to provide landscape-watering tips to help homeowners minimize the drought impact on their yards.

One of the big take-aways from our discussions with these experts is that you should not deep-water your lawn in the spring and then cut way back in the middle of summer. It’s better to use less water from the beginning of the irrigation season and avoid shocking your lawn—a conditioning program, of sorts.  Though it is possible that your lawn will be a little less lush and green than in a normal year, it’s going to be in much better shape to withstand drier conditions in the late summer. And, you will be doing your part to save water.

Here are some general watering guidelines formulated with the help of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Landscape Association:

  • Your sprinkler run times should be 4-6 minutes, backing off by 2 minutes if there is runoff, or adding 2 minutes if your lawn is still dry after a cycle
  • Start out with no more than 3 run times per assigned watering day
  • Check your sprinkler heads to ensure proper operation
  • Now is the time to root feed by fertilizing your lawn
  • The best times to water your lawn are late at night or early in the morning when the ground and air temperatures are cool

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Water Infrastructure Projects Provide for Efficient Use of Water Resources During Drought Cycles

Scott-EstesNow that TMWA’s consolidation with Washoe County’s Department of Water Resources (WCDWR) is firmly in our review mirror, we are happy to be able to move forward on a number of projects that allow for improved management of the water resources in our area. The big concept that we will be implementing here is something called conjunctive use. Simply put, conjunctive use describes a dynamic management of surface and ground-water resources that allows us to both actively and passively recharge wells when adequate surface water supplies are available. This is particularly important during droughts like the one we are experiencing now. Resting and recharging wells during the wet part of the year helps to insure that they will be there when we need them deep in the dry, summer months. Currently, TMWA is recharging—i.e. banking—approximately 7.5 million gallons of water a day into our local aquifer.

To help improve our capacity for conjunctive use of our water resources, several water infrastructure projects are underway. Here are a couple of examples:

The North Valleys Integration Project involves construction of about 29,000 feet of water main in the Lemmon Valley area. This will allow the Fish Springs groundwater supply to provide up to 8,000 acre-feet per year for use within the North Valleys area. This groundwater supply will offset an equal amount of surface water that would otherwise have to be pumped into the North Valleys area. It will also help TMWA conserve additional upstream drought reserves should the drought continue. This $17.8 million project is currently under design with construction scheduled to begin late this summer or fall with a completion date of June 1, 2016.

TMWA is also planning to make water system improvements that will deliver up to 1,500 gallons per minute of off-peak water supply for recharging existing groundwater wells in the Arrowcreek, and ultimately the Mount Rose, areas. These areas currently rely exclusively on groundwater wells for their water supply and the continuing drought has severely limited the amount of natural recharge to the local aquifers. This $2.3 million project is scheduled for construction this summer with a planned completion in November 2015 to allow recharge throughout the off-peak water season. This is the first part of a multi-phase project. Phase two is planned for 2016-2017.

Our integration with former WCDWR infrastructure is just beginning and we expect it will take a number of years, along with a lot of work and planning, to get conjunctive use firing on all cylinders. Still, we are off to a great start and happy that we are now past consolidation and able to really dig into the important improvements needed in managing our local water supply.

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TMWA Snowpack & Water Supply Report, February 20, 2015

BillHauck-BlogShotIt’s not exactly news that the snow situation in the Sierras is not good. The storms two weeks ago were welcome—and we’re always hoping for more—but as “winter” progresses, the likelihood of another year of drought is starting to sink in. Snowpack in the Truckee River watershed is approximately 36% of average, and Lake Tahoe Basin snowpack was just 23 % of normal as of this morning.  These are definitely not the kind of numbers we were hoping to see this late in the season, especially after three exceptionally dry years in a row. It now appears the Sierra Nevada will be experiencing a fourth straight dry year, which is unprecedented for our region.

The ongoing drought conditions will have negative implications for stream-flow runoff this spring.  Though we expect to have normal river flows in the early summer months, TMWA will likely have to rely on back-up supplies— reservoirs and wells—earlier than last year.

Water consumption in the TMWA service area averaged 33 million gallons per day last week which is normal for this time of the year.  Aquifer recharge averaged about 7.5 million gallons per day.

Think Snow!