Truckee River Programs

GW/SW Instrumentation at the Fleish Site, Upper Truckee River Basin
GW/SW Instrumentation at the Fleish Site, Upper Truckee River Basin

For over 35 years, DHS has performed basic and applied research - as well as long-term ambient water quality monitoring - within the Truckee River Basin. Extending over 170 km from alpine headwaters to desert terminus, the Truckee River is a critical resource to a diverse (and sometimes competing) array of stakeholders: Native Americans; municipal water supply (and wastewater treatment) for the cities of Reno and Sparks (a.k.a., the Cities); recreation; threatened and endangered species; and western Nevada agriculture.

Long term water quality monitoring on the Truckee River is supported through the NSHE budget, and provides Federal, State and local water managers with critical data in their ongoing efforts at establishing and updating water quality criteria and associated total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). While the annual budget for this program is relatively modest (~$100K/year), it has proven to be the flywheel for literally millions of dollars in basic and applied research obtained by Division faculty from USDA, USEPA, Nevada EPA (NDEP), USGS, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT), USBR, Washoe County and the Cities.

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"GW/SW Instrumentation at the Little Nixon site, Lower Truckee River Basin

A partial list of current and past research projects include (in approximate chronological order beginning with most recent first):

  • Nevada Rivers Project: This 5-year, $2 million program is funded by USEPA and has focused on improving our understanding of the linkages between land use, water quality and ecosystem response, all intended to improve our ability to simulate water quality conditions through the use of numerical models. Key research elements to the program include evaluating hydraulic exchange between the streambed and water column; characterizing periphyton response to seasonal extremes in water temperature; and assessing the impact of sediment load on benthic assemblages.
  • Impact of Agricultural Activities on Groundwater/Surface Water Exchange: This research, funded successively by NDEP and later, the USDA CREES Program, focused on the role of flood irrigation in the Truckee River Basin on non-point source (NPS) groundwater loading to the Truckee River.
  • Quantifying the Source of Salinity in the Lower Truckee River Basin: With desert Pyramid Lake as the Truckee River’s terminus, the loading of total dissolved solids (TDS) is a major challenge to water managers throughout the Basin. Research funded by the Cities and Washoe County helped evaluate the potential impact of proposed land and water use changes in TDS loading in the lower river basin.
Stream Profiling Transects at the McCarran Ranch Restoration Site, Middle Truckee River Basin
Stream Profiling Transects at the McCarran Ranch Restoration Site, Middle Truckee River Basin

Key Faculty