Frequently Asked Questions: Drought and Water Supply for 2015

TMWA customers are being asked to reduce their water use by at least 10% In addition, assigned watering days and times are required. The drought plan was approved by the TMWA Board of Directors in March, 2015. View the full Board report online here, which includes an explanation of how our water system is managed in times of drought.

Does the request for a 10% water use reduction apply to all customers?

Yes.  We are asking for at least a 10% reduction in water use from all of our customers – homes, businesses, homeowner’s associations, apartments, etc. We are all in this together.  And, with a small reduction in everyone’s water use, we’ll have sufficient drought reserves should we need them if next year is dry as well. (back to top)

Is this request for the whole community?

Yes. Although not everyone in the community is a TMWA customer, we all use the same water resources: surface water and ground water. There are also many in the community who are on private wells.  Remember: any water we save, both upstream and underground, will help all of us. With the seriousness of the drought, we all need to do as much as we can to reduce our water use. (back to top)

When will the 10% conservation request end?

Since we are using our drought reserves, every gallon you save counts.  Please continue to reduce your water use for as long as you are watering your yard.  As fall progresses, your landscaping will require less water. Please dial back your watering throughout October. As the community transition to mainly indoor water use, please continue to use water wisely. (back to top)

Why 10%?

Everyone can find a way to conserve 10%. Our planning and projections show a 10% reduction in water use will allow TMWA to retain 5,000 acre feet of water in upstream reserves, that’s over 1.6 billion gallons of water (1,629,266,900 gallons). This will help us maintain sufficient reserve water supplies for next year, should the drought continue. (back to top)

Why at least 10%?  

The seriousness of the drought means everyone needs to find ways to conserve. Many of our customers have always been very diligent about responsible water use and are already doing their part.  Other customers may be able to cut even more than 10%. (back to top)

You are asking me to save at least 10%; what is this compared to?

We are asking all of our customers to reduce their use by at least 10% compared to their 2013 usage levels. You can find your 2013 usage by logging into your account at (back to top)

How is the Truckee Meadows prepared for a drought?

Drought is a natural occurrence in the high desert and this community is well prepared. We are fortunate to have a robust supply system of upstream reservoirs and underground reserves available for use during dry years. During the winter months, groundwater supplies are also enhanced and protected when TMWA recharges over 10 million gallons of treated water per day through its wells into the aquifer for future drought-year use.

TMWA plans for dry years. Our staff continually monitors weather and snowpack conditions and plans for extended periods of drought. For a deeper look at TMWA’s resource planning, view the “2016-2035 Water Resource Plan,” which was adopted by the TMWA Board of Directors in 2016.  Portions of the plan are incorporated into the Regional Water Management Plan which is maintained by the Western Regional Water Commission.   In addition, this is a community that has always focused on water conservation, not only in dry years, but in plentiful years.  Our citizens have always valued our precious water resources and conservation. (back to top)

What has happened to the flows in the Truckee River?

Reservoir releases from Lake Tahoe and Boca Reservoir (which are not TMWA drought reserves) are required to meet mandated river flows at the CA/NV state line. These releases are administered by the Federal Water Master under court decrees from the 1940’s. Water levels in Lake Tahoe and Boca Reservoir are no longer able to release water to meet required minimum flows. TMWA has begun making releases from our drought storage reservoirs to supply water to our treatment plants and is pumping additional water from our wells. (back to top)

Should we focus on outdoor watering? 

Yes. The average customer’s water use is approximately four times higher in the summer, due to outdoor water use. Focusing on outdoor water use provides the best opportunity for the largest water savings. (back to top)

Assigned-Day Watering details:

Assigned Day Watering is in effect. As a reminder, each home or business has three days to water each week. If the last number of your home or business address is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8), please water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and/or Saturdays.  If the last number of your home or business address is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), water only on Sundays, Wednesdays and/or Fridays.  Please don’t water on Mondays, as it is a day of rest for the water system, giving it a chance to recharge. Keep in mind weather-wise watering:  water deeper and less often; water at cooler times of day to avoid high temperatures; never water when it is windy; and reduce watering in the fall to help lawns and plants go dormant. (back to top)

What are the best times of day for lawn watering?

The best times to water your lawn are late at night or early in the morning when the ground and air temperatures are cool. Please do not water between noon and 6 p.m. In the Truckee Meadows, this time of the day is typically the hottest and windiest when more water is lost to evaporation. (back to top)

How will the conservation rules be enforced?

We are serious about encouraging responsible water use and preventing waste. If you see water being wasted, please let us know by calling the conservation department at 834-8005, or using this form. Many customers simply do not realize they have a leak or broken sprinkler head. Those customers who waste water will be contacted, and, if the waste continues, they can be penalized on their water bill. We will also have staff patrolling seven days a week during the watering season, as we have for many years, looking for water waste. (back to top)

Why don’t we go back to Twice-a-Week Watering to save water?

Research has shown that three-day-a-week watering has resulted in less water use system wide. Most customers were over watering when on a two-day schedule, as there was a bigger time gap between watering days. We studied water-use data for many years before converting to three-day watering and found that the three-day schedule results in less overwatering and waste.  In addition, it’s more efficient and less stressful on landscape than twice-a-week watering. (back to top)

Does TMWA offer rebate programs for such things as grass removal, xeriscaping or purchasing water-efficient appliances? 

TMWA does not currently offer rebate programs. At TMWA, we are very aware that the conversion to more water-efficient landscaping and appliances is very important in this region—especially in drought years. With this in mind, we are researching ways to fund rebate programs that will not raise customer rates. Unlike California, where the state funds these programs, TMWA has no funding available at this time. (back to top)

Can the water we conserve everyday be used for growth - to build more houses or businesses?

The answer is no. Some people mistakenly believe that when our customers use less water through conservation, the water saved is used for growth. That is not what happens. Unused water is retained in our drought reserves or is released to benefit river system health. TMWA does not resell conserved water to serve new houses or businesses. (back to top)

So, how can more houses be built if existing residents are being asked to conserve?

Your home has dedicated water rights that cannot be taken if you conserve. There is a finite amount of water rights available in the Truckee Meadows. No growth can occur beyond that limit. Your home or business has a service commitment from the utility (backed by water rights). The water rights used for the service commitment to your home or business are the same as what occurs today when new projects are built – water rights have to be dedicated for a service commitment.  These are not new water rights – these are water rights that were assigned through a federal decree in the 1940’s and are changed from agricultural/irrigation use to municipal use.  If you conserve, your service commitment from the utility does not diminish and cannot be taken away to support growth. Again, new development must secure water rights before being approved; these must be acquired from someone willing to stop using their water and sell the rights. (back to top)

As to the question of TMWA’s position on growth in general:

TMWA’s scope of operation is limited to providing water service to those who have secured sufficient water rights and have been given approval to build. Policies regarding growth in our community are established by elected officials. (back to top)

Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) is a not-for-profit water utility, overseen by elected officials from Reno, Sparks and Washoe County. TMWA employs a highly skilled team who ensure the treatment, delivery and availability of high-quality drinking water around the clock for more than 380,000 residents of the Truckee Meadows.