A Check Up for the Truckee River
Reno was visited by a U.S. Geological Survey field crew to find out just how healthy the Truckee River is now after the storms…collecting new stream flow data, and watching for potential hazards.
The river flows 121 miles from lake to lake, the lifeblood of the Truckee Meadows…a prime source of irrigation and all that it grows in the valleys. Sometimes calm, sometimes fierce…and today churning and rushing after our recent bounty from the sky. Today it was visited by a U.S. Geological Survey field crew to find out just how healthy the Truckee River is right now after the storms, collecting new stream flow data and watching for potential hazards.
Wearing a smile while he was watching the noisy rapids near John Champion Park, USGS Hydrologic Technician Douglas Hutchinson told us, "Water is very precious in an arid state like Nevada, so every drop counts."
The results they got today (Tuesday) were very exact. Have you ever heard of the acoustic Doppler River Current Profiler? They put the boat-like machine into the river where it measures water velocity, which in turn tells the story of how the Truckee is now. Hutchinson described how it works: "It measures the particles in the water as they're going by in the flow. It doesn't measure the water. It measures how fast the particles in the water are flowing by."
Above, up on the footbridge, USGS hydro tech Emil Stockton received the real time numbers via Bluetooth, and broke them down for us: "Normal flows this time of year would be around 300-500 CFS. Today it’s coming in about 1,100 CFS."
That's cubic feet per second, and a reading more than double what's normal. This area near downtown has been used for these measurements since 1906, back when they used a brass instrument to get their numbers. Either way, it's an important measurement. They know the information they get here could possibly save lives downstream. Hutchinson told us the measurements “are so we can give people a heads up to move their property or themselves out of the way of a potential high flow event coming through."
There are automated gauges up and down the river, reporting water level readings for flood and landslide warnings and watches…vital information safeguarding lives and protecting property. The USGS comes out in person every 6 weeks to get these velocity flow measurements with the $60,000 profiler, always in the same spot for consistent readings. Hutchinson says “We’re trying to keep the flow confined into 1 channel. It’s very difficult to try and collect data when it’s spread all over the valley."
Today's verdict? The river's back in the black...an A-plus grade at least for now.
You can always keep in touch with the Truckee's flow yourself through the USGS website, where you can see all the flow numbers from each remote location along the river. Just click below: