June 25, 2015
by Celeste Tinajero
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Discover Your Walks and get #watersmart

Every Thursday night thitmpfs summer, Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (TMPF), leads a one-mile walk in a different park. These Discover Your Parks walks are often at parks along the Truckee River corridor, ditches, or other bodies of water. Each week TMPF members discuss the drought, its consequences, and how valuable water really is to our region.

The ditches of Reno and Sparks, which generally open in April and are ideally shut off in October, were shut off in July and August last year. This year the ditches are being shut off even earlier; the Highland Ditch was shut down in May! This resulted in one of the few off-leash dog parks in Washoe County closing for the season, putting extra stress on the remaining four dog parks left in the area.

The drought is obvious in Idlewild Park. Where there were once dozens of Canada geese, Mallard ducks, Double-crested cormorants, and other water birds, there are now very few. The artistic rainbow fish in the first pond are high and dry. Park visitors can walk across the river with ease.

The Truckee River corridor is home to many species of birds, animals, insects, and plants. The cottonwoods along the river need plenty of water to survive and provide shelter and shade for these animal, bird, and insect species. These plants and animals are not as drought tolerant as sagebrush, lizards, and other species of the high desert.

We try to educate the public, as well as everyone who comes out on our Discover Your Parks walks about the consequences of the drought and ways in which they can help to reduce the impact of the drought in the Truckee Meadows. It is important to TMPF to not only talk about the drought, but to show the actual impacts of four years with less than average precipitation. Join TMPF every Thursday at 7pm to learn about local parks and get #watersmart.



June 24, 2015
by Celeste Tinajero
Comments Off on Be #watersmart by getting to know your watershed – Part 2

Be #watersmart by getting to know your watershed – Part 2

Storm Water Public Art in Reno, NV

Today we are following yesterday’s post that described our three local watersheds by providing more information on what can be done to positively impact our local water issues. To read Part 1 click here.

What Everyone Can Do Right Now
On June 16-17, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and Project WET hosted “Waters of the Western Great Basin: A Symposium for Educators” at the Peppermill in Reno. At the symposium, everyone was encouraged to take action in helping preserve and enhance our local watersheds. Reno’s hydrologist, Lynell Garfield-Qualls, inspired attendees with the storm drain art project that she helped actualize. The initiative has artists painting a more human face on the storm drains throughout the city and hopes to remind people that street surface runoff enters the storm drain system and drains directly to the Truckee River, untreated. Remember, only rain in the storm drain.

Lynell shared some other easy ways to help keep our local waters clean:

  • Prevent “Urban Slobber” (untreated fluid waste that runs off yards and city streets, into drains, and eventually into the river) by setting sprinkler times for zero runoff and taking your vehicle to a commercial car wash instead of doing it yourself.
  • Dispose of oil/paint properly and close lids to dumpsters and garbage cans to keep the waste dry.
    Pick up pet waste, as leaving it to decompose will put extra nutrients into the water system, which will decrease water quality.
  • Obtain proper permits for industrial operations.
  • Obtain proper building permits to reduce construction runoff – and CALL IN if you see any project violating their permits – ACTIVE CITIZENRY 334-INFO.
  • Engage in thoughtful small ranching techniques.

The Rain Garden installation, an example of a Low Impact Development (LID) installation, at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center. Photo Copyright © 2015 University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, an EEO/AA institution

We also had the opportunity to tour the Low Impact Development (LID) example project that the City of Reno established in 2009 at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center. One of the lead engineers explained the many different techniques that were installed to the building’s exterior and landscape in order to have a lessened environmental impact. Examples that you can see for yourself are a permeable concrete parking lot, rain gutters, and a rain garden just to name a few. There is a self-guided walking tour and informational signs around the building to educate the public about LID and how it helps to be more environmentally friendly. Check out the regional stormwater quality management program to read about more initiatives that the City of Reno is implementing to help our watershed.

Where & How To Learn More
Over the course of the two day symposium, we realized that many local organizations and groups are working towards the same goal: To educate our communities in protecting their local watersheds. If you want to learn more about local watersheds, water rights, and water issues, great starting points include your local library and museums, as well as online resources. If you are looking to get involved in creating change in your community and protecting your watersheds, a couple of great ways include participating in trash cleanups and contacting your elected officials to let them know the health of your watershed is important to you!

Check out these websites and organizations to learn more:
Educational Opportunities & Tours

  • Tahoe Science Center (http://terc.ucdavis.edu/ed-outreach/tahoe-science-center/): A little something (science-related) for everyone–docent-led tours, group tours and field trips, hands-on science activities, a monthly lecture series, and special events.
  • Project WET: Water Education for Teachers (http://www.projectwet.org/) – working towards a world in which action-oriented education enables every child to understand and value water, ensuring a sustainable future. They have many water-related activities that teachers and parents can do with children.
  • Truckee Meadows Water Authority (https://tmwa.com/) for information, conservation tips, and public tours of water facilities.
  • Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum & Visitors Center (http://www.plpt.nsn.us/museum/index.html) information about the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s history, culture, it’s people. Museum Hours: Tuesday – Saturday | 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.
  • Pyramid Lake Fisheries (http://www.pyramidlakefisheries.org/) has the goal to operate and maintain fishery facilities at Pyramid Lake and the lower Truckee River for the purpose of enhancing Cui-ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout populations, while creating a balance within natural resources management actions, which reflects the social, cultural, economic, and natural resource values of the Pyramid Lake Paiute people. Tours available: 775-476-0500.
  • The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex (http://www.fws.gov/lahontannfhc/) manages the recovery implementation for the endangered cui-ui and the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout. Tours available M-F from 8AM-3PM, but you must call in advance 775-265-2425.
  • The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Rocks Program (http://www.naturerocks.org/activities/index.htm) – activities aimed to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature for happier, healthier and smarter kids. Also check out The Nature Conservancy’s water saving tips: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/riverslakes/help/index.htm.
  • River Wranglers (http://www.riverwranglers.org/): inspiring youth, through hands-on learning, to explore, conserve and understand the importance of local rivers. They have river history trunks, classroom presentations, and field trips.
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (http://www.tmparksfoundation.org/) works with citizens in the Truckee Meadows to ensure the long-term sustainability and improvement of our parks. They have monthly events and weekly park tours.
  • Sierra Nevada Journeys (http://sierranevadajourneys.org/) has classroom opportunities, field trips, family science nights, and outdoor summer camps.
  • Great Basin Outdoor School (http://greatbasin-os.org/) – hands on discovery in the outdoor classroom – offering spring, summer, fall, and winter programs for classes and youth.
  • Urban Roots (http://www.urgc.org/) is growing healthy minds, bodies & communities. Farm tours and camps available.

Community Cleanups

  • Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (http://ktmb.org/) is dedicated to creating a cleaner, more beautiful region through education and active community involvement. They have multiple volunteer opportunities and cleanup events every month.

Online Resources

  • Truckee Meadows Stormwater Quality Management Program (http://www.TMstormwater.com) is a joint effort of the cities of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County. They have a wealth of resources about how you can get involved in keeping our watershed clean including an interactive Truckee Meadows watershed map.
  • Carson Interactive Watershed Map (http://www.cwsd.org/watershed/) is an educational tool that does a great job of going into detail about different aspects of the Carson Valley watershed.
    state of the lake website
  • Truckee River Info Gateway (TRIG) (http://truckeeriverinfo.org/) uses avaible water quality data to make technical resources freely available to the public.

Written by 
Aaron and Molly Heit
AmeriCorps VISTAs serving at Envirolution.


June 23, 2015
by Celeste Tinajero
1 Comment

Be #watersmart by getting to know your watershed – Part 1

Waters of the Western Great Basin: A Symposium for Educators
Last week teachers of all levels, community members, and AmeriCorps VISTAs working with local nonprofit organisations gathered at the Peppermill to attend the Waters of the Western Great Basin: A Symposium for Educators. The Symposium was organized and run by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and Project WET. A big THANK YOU goes out to Mary Kay Wagner from NDEP and Nancy E. Lowe from the Great Basin Outdoor School (GBOS) for organizing and facilitating, as well as to all the speakers and sponsors who made the event possible!

Peppermill Highlights
Many in the Reno area have heard about the Peppermill’s recent geothermal installation and subsequent windfall of savings, but few have had the opportunity to get an in depth look at how it all works and what it means for mitigating energy costs. Dean Parker, Peppermill’s Executive Director of Facilities, gave all of the teachers a tour and explained that it all started when the Peppermill had to figure out ways to save money during the recession. They had to think outside the box for ways to save money, included many other alternative energy initiatives, but as Dean said, “It was a no-brainer [to choose Geothermal] when you get a four year return on your investment.” Honing their craft since 2007 the facility workers at the Peppermill have become experts in Geothermal. Their current system uses a 4,421 feet deep well that provides all of the heating and cooling needs for the entire 2.1 million square foot resort. Each year the Peppermill saves approximately $2 million dollars in heating and cooling costs.

Here’s a quick overview of what we learned and how the Geothermal works currently at the Peppermill:

  • Water is pumped up at a constant 174℉ from the deep well, 4,421 feet below the property.
  • The hot water heats copper tubes filled with municipal water in a heat exchanger in the Peppermill’s boiler room.
  • The municipal water is pumped all throughout the resort to heat and cool all the rooms. The geothermal water is then pumped back into the aquifer where the Earth naturally reheats it to 174℉ to be used again.
  • The peppermill has pursued many other green initiatives for their facilities, saving water, energy, and money in the process. You can read more here.

Our Western Great Basin Waters
A watershed is an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. The Great Basin is an enormous, enclosed, high desert between the Rockies and the Sierra where no rivers drain to the ocean (x). Covered over the two days of the Symposium was our three local watersheds: Truckee River Basin, Carson River Basin, and Walker River Basin.

Waters of the Western Great Basin

Waters of the Western Great Basin – Click to enlarge image.

The Truckee River Basin starts with Lake Tahoe – about half the water in the lake flows into the lake via streams from snowmelt and rain, and the other half of the lake’s water falls directly onto the lake surface as snow and rain. The three biggest water issues facing Lake Tahoe include water clarity, climate change, and aquatic invasive species. Water from Lake Tahoe flows into the Truckee River – its only outlet – and into Pyramid Lake at the end of the watershed. Pyramid Lake faces issues unique to being downstream: water used upstream will no longer flow to fill the lake, water quality becomes worse as the water flows downstream, and wildlife that depend on the unique characteristics of the lake, like the Cui-ui lakesucker (Chasmistes cujus) and the Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi), become threatened as the lake is changed by human use. Pyramid Lake is located within The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s tribal reservation lands, and the lake is a central asset and important cultural component of the tribe.
Read more about the Truckee River Basin watershed.

The Carson River Basin begins with the East Fork and West Fork of the Carson River. The two forks join to form the Carson River and flows north and east to the river terminus at the Carson Sink. One way this watershed is different than the Truckee River Basin is that there is no big water reservoir at the beginning of the watershed to store water for later use, like Lake Tahoe. The Carson River Coalition Educator Working Group and the Carson Water Subconservancy District have been working together since 2007 to implement a Carson River Watershed-Literacy Action Plan with the goal to “increase awareness that human behavior affects watershed health and to use education to promote changes in behavior that will ultimately improve habitat, water quality, water supply, and benefit the watershed as a whole.” You can learn more about the plan and the objectives they have made to achieve this goal in the most up to date 2015 version of the plan here.
Read more about the Carson River Basin watershed here

The Walker River Basin begins with the East Walker River and the West Walker River, and after converging, ends in Walker Lake – the terminus of the watershed. Since the late 1800’s, the lake has dropped more than 150 feet, which has resulted in much higher amounts of dissolved solids in the lake water. The quality of the ecosystems along the river have also been degraded over time due to the river being channeled (straightened) and separated from the surrounding floodplain. In an effort to restore a section of river ecosystems for local wildlife and to help with overall water quality, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife are working with Otis Bay to revert a straight river section back to a meandering curved section of the river. Since the Walker River Basin has seen less overall human development compared to the Truckee River Basin, there exists more and easier ecological restoration potential.
Read more about the Walker River Basin watershed here.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2, when we will describe what you can do right now to help your local watershed and share some resources for where you can learn more about impacting your local water for the better!

Written by
Aaron and Molly Heit,
AmeriCorps VISTAs serving at Envirolution.


June 11, 2015
by Celeste Tinajero
Comments Off on Get #watersmart with Great Basin Outdoor School

Get #watersmart with Great Basin Outdoor School

Today was the final day of Great Basin Outdoor School’s spring science camps and day field studies with a big focus on our watershed—how to protect it and the importance of conserving water. Teachers can now register classes for fall and winter programs to give more studenKathy, Harold, Prophetts a chance to study aboard a research boat, volunteer on projects to help keep Tahoe blue, and to snowshoe through our Sierra snowpack as they learn how it stores our water for the rest of the year. 

Activities such as Project WET’s “Drop in a Bucket” help students understand the very limited availability of fresh water in the world. You’ll see how much fun all this water study is on Great Basin Outdoor School’s six minute video.

YOU can learn and be inspired to conserve water by watching “Thirst”, a short but impressive slide show. (It’s 16MB, so give it a moment to download.)


June 11, 2015
by Celeste Tinajero
Comments Off on Be #watersmart – Pick a Water DOT

Be #watersmart – Pick a Water DOT

This month, as part of GREENevada’s series on how to be water smart, each GREENevada organization is sharing what they’re doing to combat the drought.

At ACE, Alliance for Climate Education, we educate high school students about climate change and empower them to take action. We do this in two ways: The ACE Assembly combines current climate science with pop-culture entertainment. Secondly, we offer all students a chance to take action. For some, it’s a simple lifestyle change. For others, it’s hands-on preparation for a lifetime of leadership.

Simple lifestyle changes we call DOTs. A DOT is a pledge to Do One Thing to fight climate change. We ask all students who see the ACE Assembly to pick a DOT. And in northern Nevada, we ask all students to pick a water DOT.

What are these water DOTs? Below are some examples, all thought up by northern Nevada students.

  • Take shorter showers
  • Take fewer showers! (This one gets groans from fellow classmates.)
  • Only do big loads of laundry
  • Water the lawn less — or even STOP watering the lawn
  • Eat less red meat (Cause it takes a lot of water to raise a cow)
  • Carry a reusable water bottle (This might not save water locally, but it’s a great step to reduce waste.)

Collecting DOT pledges from around school is a great way to get all students involved in water conservation. You can also display all the DOTs together in a DOT mural – an artistic depiction of each student’s DOT. Check out how to make a DOT mural here.

Got a water DOT of your own? Share it below!