Truckee River Users
Who uses the Truckee River?
The Truckee River system is used by several communities and for many purposes. The Truckee River winds down from pristine Lake Tahoe on a 121-mile route through Sierra mountain canyons, past the communities of Reno and Sparks, and finally carves through the high desert into Pyramid Lake. The River is the lifeblood of the Truckee Meadows, supplying 85 percent of the water used in homes and businesses. But, the Truckee River water is also used by other communities and for many other purposes.
Are there other users of the Truckee?
Yes, several. The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) has agricultural water rights and diverts water at Derby Dam to Lahontan Reservoir for agriculture in the Fallon area.
Another large user of the Truckee River is the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service who in collaboration with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe manage water stored in both Stampede and Prosser reservoirs for threatened and endangered fisheries of the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake.
Also, there are three operating hydroelectric facilities owned by TMWA. The plants divert and return water along the river for electric generation in the Truckee Meadows.
Besides use for homes, businesses, agriculture, and fish, are there other river uses?
Drought reserves are stored upstream for our use during periods of low river flows. From Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, recreationalists such as bikers, hikers, swimmers, rafters, picnickers, paddlers, boaters, fishermen and nature-lovers flock to the Truckee River year-round.
Who decides how much water is used and for what purpose?
Like other rivers in the western United States, the Truckee’s flow is highly regulated by a system of court decrees, agreements and California and Nevada state laws. The allocation of water via water rights establishes a priority for the use of the Truckee’s waters. (For more information see our Water Rights Topic Paper.)
How much do we use?
In a normal year, Reno and Sparks diverts and uses only about six percent of the Truckee River’s total volume and, of that, about half is returned to the River through the sewage treatment plant for other water users downstream.
When precipitation is low or when a drought is indicated, less water flows into Pyramid Lake and municipal and irrigation diversions change.