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Rainwater as a Resource, report (TreePeople)

A Report on Three Sites Demonstrating Sustainable Stormwater Management

Are our cities beyond repair?
TreePeople doesn’t think so.

As part of its Natural Urban Systems Group, TreePeople has been involved in the implementation of several retrofits designed to restore the natural functions of urban sites. From single-family homes to large public sites such as schools and parks, we’ve helped show that integrating nature’s cycles into the urban landscape is not only technically and financially feasible but also highly desirable for individuals and cities alike.

By incorporating stormwater best management practices (BMPs) such as swales, retention grading, cisterns, infiltrators and strategically-planted trees in building and landscaping designs, a multitude of benefits can be realized, including: improved water quality; a decreased risk of flooding; a reduced need for water importation; heat-island effect mitigation; a reduction in contributions to global climate change; and an augmented supply of local groundwater. These are just some of the benefits that are possible when urban sites are allowed to work in concert with nature’s cycles of flood, drought and waste – and together, they create a sharp improvement in the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which we live, learn, work and play.

The newly published report Rainwater as a Resource shares the details of utilizing these concepts and sheds light on the many opportunities to implement the wide array of available technologies. We encourage you to peruse this report to learn more about using these principles as a means of moving cities closer to sustainability.

The report is attached here in pdf format. Appendices you might find interesting include some project as-built drawings, and O&M and inspection costs at this website:

Truckee River TMDL case study (historical document, 1994)

EPA TMDL Case Study, EPA 841-F-94-006, August 1994, Number 13

Documentation of original load allocations of N, P, and TDS as well as one wasteload allocation in the watershed.

Please visit website for information.

Truckee River Operating Agreement EIS/EIR (final 1/2008)

Final EIS/EIR Summary:

The action considered is implementation of the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA) in accordance with Public Law 101-618, Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act of 1990. The primary purpose of TROA is to modify operation of Federal and selected non-Federal reservoirs in the Truckee River basin located in northeastern California and northwestern Nevada, enhance conditions for threatened and endangered fish species, increase drought protection, improve river water quality, and enhance instream flows. Signatories to TROA are U.S. Department of the Interior, States of Nevada and California, Truckee Meadows Water Authority, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

To access pdf's of all sections of this document, please visit website.

Water Quality Assessment and Modeling of the California Portion of the Truckee River Basin (2001)

Written By 
David McGraw, Alan McKay, Guohong Duan, Thomas Bullard, Tim Minor, Jason Kuchnicki 

Prepared By
Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, University and Community College System of Nevada, Las Vegas

Prepared For
Town of Truckee Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board JULY 2001

Influence of Riparian Vegetation on Local Climate and River Temperature

This project is managed by
Gayle Dana, Jim Brock, and John Stanley

Temperature is of fundamental importance to the function of aquatic ecosystems and the distribution and abundance of species. Water temperature is critical to maintenance of self-sustaining fisheries with considerable resources being applied towards managing flow, channel, and riparian conditions in order to promote optimal thermal regimes. Numerical models that simulate river temperature have come into common use by managers concerned with water quality (pollutant loading) as well as biological communities.

These models typically require meteorologic data (e.g., air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation). Such data typically are obtained from regional weather stations and applied to conditions at a point in the basin. Some models, such as SNTEMP (Bartholow 1995) make adjustments for elevation but generally it is assumed that the climate data from the weather station (commonly located a t airports) adequately reflect conditions that influence river temperature.

Meteorological data (air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, solar radiation) were collected in two areas within in the Truckee River Basin, Nevada. Stations within Reno Urban area include the Reno Airport (Reno), which is presently used in the modeling efforts described earlier, and the Desert Research Institute (DRI). At the Lower Truckee River area, data were collected in 4 different habitat types near the river: open water (OW), shaded riparian (SRA), gallery forest (GF), and open field (OF). Two stations were set up in each habitat type. Data were collected from September 27 to October 23, 2001.

Truckee River Sedimentation Study (1993)

Written By
Brad R. Hall, William A. Thomas
Hydraulics Laboratory, US Army Corps of Engineers
Waterways Experiment Station

Technical Report HL-93-13
September 1993

The U.S. Army Engineer Sacramento District (CESPK) is formulating a local flood protection project along the Truckee River at Reno, Nevada. The District is completing a Sediment Engineering Investigation (SEI) in conjunction with the project design to assess existing and project condition sedimentation processes of the Truckee River. This report is part of the SEI and provides an assessment of the existing sedimentation conditions of the study reach. A sediment budget and associated channel changes for both average annual and design flood conditions are developed in this report.

The Truckee River study reach is located near Reno, Nevada and extends from the Vista gage at approximately River Mile (RM) 43.9 to just upstream of the Booth Street bridge at RM 53.0. A map of the study area is shown on Figure 1. A number of inflow points occur along the study reach including urban inflows, irrigation diversion wasteways, and tributary drainages. Two major tributaries provide additional discharge; Steamboat Creek at RM 45.5 and the North Fork Truckee drain at RM 44.8. The Truckee River watershed upstream of the study reach includes the Lake Tahoe watershed and portions of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and Nevada. The Truckee River watershed area at the upstream end of the study reach is approximately 1,067 square miles. The majority of the Truckee River runoff originates in the Sierra Nevada mountains and flows through the study reach. Downstream of the study reach, the Truckee River flows east-northeast until it empties into Pyramid Lake, 43 miles downstream of the Vista gage. Pyramid Lake is a terminal lake for the river basin which has no outlet to the ocean.

The Truckee River is a perennial stream characterized by pool and riffle channel morphology. Several bridge crossings and water diversion structures are found in the study reach. Man made channel modifications, especially within the upper 3 miles of the study reach, have limited the amount of channel migration. Bed material size decreases through the reach, and the channel bed is armored at base flow discharge. The flood plain and back water storage areas have been encroached upon by areas of urban construction and earth fill in recent years.

Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotopes on the Truckee River: Results of March 2004 Sampling

Prepared By
Laurel Saito, Ph.D., P.E., Christa Fay, and Kristin Kvasnicka
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada Reno
1000 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512-0013

Prepared For
Karen Vargas, Environmental Specialist
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
July 27, 2004

Dr. Laurel Saito and her students at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) have been collaborating with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT), the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) to investigate the use of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to understand anthropogenic impacts on the aquatic ecosystem in the Truckee River. Previous work included stable isotope sampling and analysis of the Truckee River aquatic food web (i.e., fish and macroinvertebrates, and periphyton) in the summers of 2002 and 2003 during relatively low flows, and in the spring of 2003 during higher flows. The scope of the current study involved collecting another set of aquatic food web samples in March 2004 on the Truckee River for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis. This report presents the methods and results of this sampling.

The Truckee River is a vital resource to Nevadans in the northwest region of the state. It provides public water supplies to the cities of Reno and Sparks, and while little irrigated agriculture occurs directly adjacent to the river, about one-third of its flow is diverted to the Lahontan Valley for irrigation purposes. The river terminates into Pyramid Lake, which has experienced severe declines in water level because of the heavy water diversions along its length. In addition, there are numerous resort and recreational activities throughout the basin, and the river and Pyramid Lake provide valuable water and habitat for endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui ui species. In 1998, the USGS’s Nevada Basin and Range (NVBR) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program reported that while stream habitat at all sites (based on degradation indices related to riparian vegetation, stream modification, bank stability, and bank erosion) on the Truckee River system was better than the national median, fish communities in the lower reaches of the Truckee River were more degraded than the national median (Bevans et al. 1998). Furthermore, nutrients in the river and trace elements in its sediments increased 3 to 10 times downstream of the discharge from sewage treatment plants and the entrance of Steamboat Creek to the river. Thus, it appears that downstream influences on water quality and associated biological activity are detrimentally affecting the food web in the Truckee River.

The current work involves the use of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to gain insight into the aquatic food web. The use of stable isotopes in trophic studies employs the fundamental concept that ‘you are what you eat.’ Stable isotopes incorporate two kinds of information: origin and fractionation. The isotopic signature of an individual will reflect the signature of the sources of the isotopes (i.e., where the isotopes first entered the food web) and the change in the isotopic signature due to isotopic fractionation by consumption and metabolism in the food web (Peterson and Fry 1987). Because isotopes accumulate in body tissues over time, a one-time analysis of stable isotopes provides a time-integrated measure of the diet (Fry and Sherr 1984; Hesslein et al. 1993; Vander Zanden et al. 1998). Stable isotope analysis can even be used in food webs with omnivory because isotope values can be measured in all levels of the food web, including phytoplankton, zooplankton, and aquatic insects (Michener and Schell 1994; Vander Zanden and Rasmussen 1996; France 1997). Carbon and nitrogen ratios are the most commonly used stable isotope ratios in food web studies. Carbon ratios (?13C ) are used because the slight (0.2 – 1.1000) increase of ?13C in animals relative to their diet means that the ?13C signature of the primary producer (first organic food source) is likely to be preserved through several trophic levels (Peterson and Fry 1987; Michener and Schell 1994; Yoshioka et al. 1994; France and Peters 1997). Thus, carbon isotope analysis can be used to identify and distinguish the influence of different primary food sources if the isotopic signatures of those food sources are distinctive enough (Forsberg et al. 1993; Michener and Schell 1994). The nitrogen ratio (?15N ) is often used as an indicator of trophic position of a consumer (Fry 1988; Kling et al. 1992; Yoshioka et al. 1994) because the increase of ?15N with trophic level is much greater than with carbon (~3-4000 per trophic level) (Michener and Schell 1994).

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes have value in potentially detecting anthropogenic influences on aquatic food webs. Human- and animal-derived wastewater should have higher ?15N values because of the volatilization of 15N depleted ammonia which occurs during the hydroloysis of urea, and because humans tend to eat higher in the food chain, which elevates their waste nitrogen signatures (Heaton 1986; Silva et al. 2002; Wayland and Hobson 2001). On the other hand, synthetic fertilizers are typically derived by industrial fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (which has a reference signature of 0000), so waters draining fields using these fertilizers tend to have lower nitrogen signatures (Heaton 1986; Silva et al. 2002). Distinctive carbon signatures may be detected when aquatic-terrestrial interactions are altered (e.g. due to alteration of the stream channel and/or flooding regime) because terrestrial plants may have significantly different ?13C signatures than their aquatic counterparts. Such approaches have been used to detect the importance of autochthonous versus allochthonous material in streams (Rounick and Winterbourn 1986; Finlay et al. 1999). In addition, shifts in food web dynamics such as shifts in diets or elimination of species may be detectable with stable isotopes; if the food chain shortens, we should see shifts in nitrogen signatures in the top predators, and if a food source is eliminated at the base of the food web, we may see shifts in the carbon signature.

Biological Condition Index Development for the Truckee River: Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assemblage

Prepared By

Tetra Tech, Inc.
10045 Red Run Blvd, 110
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Prepared For

Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
July 2004


The objective of our analysis was to develop a biological index for benthic macroinvertebrates for the Nevada portion of the mainstem of the Truckee River using preexisting data. We analyzed data collected by four separate entities, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP), Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT), Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility (TMWRF), and Desert Research Institute (DRI). To develop a common dataset from collections of multiple entities, an evaluation of the field and/or lab methodological differences was performed to minimize non-random error. A common index period was designated as low flow (July to October), all replicates were combined, and the number of individuals per sample was set to 500 organisms (samples with more organisms were randomly sampled with a computer to 500).

A multimetric index was developed from the data set and comprised six metrics or attributes of the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblage; total taxa, percent Ephemeroptera, percent Chironomidae, percent dominant taxon, percent filterers, and percent clingers. In an assessment, each metric value is converted to a standard score ranging between 0 and 100 (100 being closest to reference or optimal value). The scores for all six metrics are averaged to obtain an aggregated index score and compared to thresholds or break points based on percentages of the overall score and expected conditions for a good quality benthic macroinvertebrate community. Application of the benthic index to the mainstem of the Truckee River indicated the biological condition was of higher quality in the upper reaches and declined in quality as the river approaches Pyramid Lake. A more definitive assessment is pending the results of the analyses on companion assemblages of the aquatic community, namely the fish and algal assemblages.

Biological Condition Index Development for the Truckee River: Periphyton Assemblage

Prepared By
Clinton J. Davis and Christian H. Fritsen
Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno NV, 89512

Prepared For
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
February 6, 2006

The objectives of the current activities were to determine if sufficient data was available to derive preliminary periphyton-based metrics that could be used in a periphyton-based indices of ecological condition for the Lower Truckee River, which could in turn be used to derive more comprehensive indices of biological integrity (IBI) based on fish, macroinvertebrates and periphyton populations. Derivation of metrics and indices was made possible through the use of relatively recent (2000 to 2004) seasonal periphyton data that was collected from 11 to 15 locations from California-Nevada border to Pyramid Lake. Although, the levels of taxonomic information from the different data sets were not always comparable, several candidate metrics and indices encompassing information from both the species level and the genera level were identified, calculated and evaluated.

Notable among the metrics most amenable for a Truckee River Periphyton Index were the Siltation Index, Shannon Diversity Index, Eutraphentic Index, Diatom Generic Richness, % Achnanthes minutissima, Chlorophyll a and Ash Free Dry Weight. These metrics covered several aspects of the periphyton community characteristics (richness, composition, tolerance, and habit) that are desired attributes to be accounted for in multimetric indices.

Application of a periphyton-based multimetric index to the mainstem of the Truckee River indicates a general upstream to downstream trend for decreasing ecological condition. However, these results are based on a limited amount of periphyton data and also need to be evaluated in combination with Index’s for fishes and macroinvertebrates in order to gain a more complete picture of the “condition” of the lower Truckee River.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Evaluating Water Quality in the Lower Truckee River

December 12, 2005

Results of this investigation revealed that trout in the Truckee River are being exposed to significant levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) within the urban area of Reno and Sparks. Trout downstream of the urban area of Reno and Sparks also have elevated concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and selenium. Based upon these results, the Service is working in conjunction with the cities of Reno and Sparks to develop and implement strategies to reduce non-point source (NPS) pollution to the Truckee River. The Service is also working directly with the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility to reduce potential impacts from their point source (PS) discharge to the Truckee River. Working with the Cities of Reno and Sparks, along with Washoe County, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, U.S. Geological Survey, Desert Research Institute, University of Nevada- Reno, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) standards for several constituents are being assessed and will be revised. The City of Reno also recently issued new storm-water engineering guidelines and best management practices to reduce non-point source pollution to the Truckee River. In addition, approximately 8 acres of riparian habitat were improved on McCarran Ranch to help reduce point and non-point source pollution in the lower Truckee River. Further restoration of the McCarran Ranch is planned along with planned additions of riparian and wetland habitats in the floodplain throughout the Truckee Meadows area for purposes of improving flood control.

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