| Arid Nevada region collaborates on award-winning source water protection plan
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Arid Nevada region collaborates on award-winning source water protection plan

Truckee Meadows RivertA voluntary, multi-jurisdictional plan to preserve and improve the quality of an irreplaceable water system in western Nevada is this year’s recipient of the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Exemplary Source Water Protection Award.

Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), along with more than 35 other Nevada agencies and 60 stakeholders, helped create and launch a source water and watershed protection plan for the Truckee River watershed -- home to a complex system of lakes, reservoirs, rivers, springs, streams, and groundwater that supplies drinking water to nearly 450,000 people in Washoe County. (Pictured right, Truckee River.)

Protect the Source 2022The initiative highlights why AWWA is sponsoring Source Water Protection Week, Sept. 25 through Oct. 1: to help consumers, water utilities and environmental advocates understand that the best way to ensure high quality drinking water is to protect water sources. Access AWWA’s downloadable materials here.

“With Nevada being the most arid state in the nation, TMWA recognizes the importance of planning for the future to ensure the water supply is sustainable as the region grows and the climate changes,” said Kara Steeland, a hydrologist with TMWA. 

Truckee River watershed.The integrated plan for source water and watershed protection was developed using a “one water” approach that brought two Nevada Division of Environmental Protection programs together in one comprehensive plan. This opened the door to funding for multiple water quality protection and improvement projects regionwide. The plan was finalized and accepted by the participating agencies in 2020. (Pictured right, Truckee River watershed.)

The key components of the source water protection action plan include:

  • Managing controls for known and/or potential sources of contamination, including identifying and managing source water protection areas, engaging residents in protecting water quality and helping reduce wildland fire risk.
  • Controlling new potential sources of contamination, such as underground storage tanks, septic systems, domestic wells and water projects and community development. 
  • Protecting potential future water sources, including inactive or future well locations. 
  • Maintaining an emergency response plan to handle accidents and other incidents that threaten protected water supplies.
  • Implementing stakeholder education and involvement programs, such as TMWA’s  Smart About Water program
  • Leveraging program and project funds, through efforts, such as the Truckee River Fund, which has distributed nearly $14.1 million to help fund more than 174 projects. 
  • Coordinating source water protection efforts with local, county, regional and state entities. 
  • Monitoring to ensure program effectiveness and completing annual reports to summarize program accomplishment. 

“Program success is a combination of the watershed and source water protection components working together,” stated the award application. “Accolades are due to all the deserving partners for their collaborative roles in planning, funding, education, and implementation.”

As part of the innovative plan, stakeholders created an all-digital online plan and tool for communities in Washoe County, which includes the cities of Reno and Sparks. A comprehensive description of the program is available through a web-based mapping tool and website.

“The Truckee River watershed is complicated in that it spans two states, multiple counties and cities, and very little land in the source water protection areas is owned by TMWA or the other public water utilities,” the applicant stated. “Partnerships and collaborations are critical to the success of our program.”

(Photos courtesy of Washoe County Clean Water.)