MEDIA ADVISORY: Concurrent meeting to address flood mitigation & lowering water levels in Swan Lake
Top things to know ahead of the concurrent meeting

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Amy Ventetuolo

Reno, Nev. Aug. 6, 2019. Washoe County, the City of Reno and the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority will be holding a concurrent meeting today, Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 3 p.m. at Reno City Hall.

To watch the meeting live, visit the City of Reno’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

PURPOSE: The purpose of the meeting is to hear a presentation regarding the process for allowing the City of Reno to install a temporary pipeline to remove water from Swan Lake for land application and future agricultural use.

BACKGROUND: Since the fall of 2016, our region has experienced record-breaking snow and rainfall particularly impacting closed hydro-basins in Lemmon Valley and Stead.

Washoe County has responded by protecting against flooding during weather events with the Commission’s directive to protect residences and lives and keep the lake within the lake. The top protections put in place and consistently maintained by Washoe County are:

  • HESCO barriers: HESCO barriers are military-grade temporary flood barriers surrounding Swan Lake that were erected in January of 2017. The barriers are four-feet high, extend four-miles around the lake and filled with 12,000 yards of sand.
  • Strategically located pumps: Pump stations have been placed around Swan Lake where stormwater has collected to pump it into the lake to keep it contained. These pumps have periodically changed locations around the lake as needed to maximize protections. These pumps are a part of the overall strategy for managing and maintaining the barrier system surrounding Swan Lake.
  • Inflatable Dam: In April 2019, Washoe County crews installed additional protections in the form of temporary inflatable dams to provided added security to residents in the area.
  • K-Rail: K-rails are semi-permanent protections in high traffic areas. They were installed in spring of 2019 around Swan Lake to provide additional protection of the barrier system and traveling public.
  • Consistent water quality testing: Washoe County staff has continually performed water quality testing of the water in Swan Lake as a protection for residents. All results have been posted to the Washoe County website, click here for water quality reports.


Based on the presentation and discussion, should the Boards and Council agree at this afternoon’s meeting, a possible next step could be for the City to approve the action to proceed with the purpose of land application of water from Swan Lake, including authorization to move forward with the bidding process and affirm the use of funds for the project.

Washoe County owns vacant parcels located north of the Reno Stead Airport.  The properties are referred to as American Flat and are utilized as a buffer between the airport and residentially zoned properties to the north.  Reno and Washoe County staffs have been working to identify properties that could support land application of water from Swan Lake. 

An interlocal agreement for consideration today between the City of Reno and Washoe County allows for the City to utilize land owned by Washoe County to apply water from Swan Lake which will increase water volume storage in the lake by lowering the existing lake elevation. 

The land application of water will result in augmenting the natural evaporative process of water within the closed basin. 

The American Flat properties provide an opportunity to remove 600 or more acre feet water per year which would result in a half foot drop in lake elevation. 

As an additional action item, the City of Reno will consider authorizing an amount not to exceed $3,000,000 to award contracts to implement water removal and pumping to American Flat.


Current direction by the Board of County Commissioners to staff includes continued upkeep, maintenance, and response focused on providing for life safety to the rising waters of Swan Lake located in the closed hydrographic basin known as the East Lemmon Valley Hydrographic Basin within Washoe County. 

Affirmation from the Board will be sought to utilize funds received from the sale of water rights in FY17 for costs associated with implementation of short-term lake management strategies to include hazard mitigation grant program, lake containment, and evaporation enhancement.

Additional details of those plans can be found here and will be discussed in-depth at the August 27th Board of County Commissioners meeting.


Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »