The Truckee Meadows Water Authority owns and operates three hydroelectric plants along the Truckee River. During the last fiscal year, those plants generated more than 52.2 million KWh of electricity and more than $3.7 million in revenue. Both break the previous records set in the '12-13' fiscal year by 211,809 KWh and $199,058.43. A big reason for the increase is high river flows.

"We've had two consecutive winters and the upstream storage is at a point where the river flows have been more than adequate to maximize our generation, this year," Pat Nielson, TMWA Director of Distribution, Maintenance & Generation said.

The Fleish, Verdi and Washoe Hydroelectric Plants are more than 100 years-old and operate around the clock. Water is diverted from the Truckee River into canals that lead to the turbines. TMWA's four-man crew makes sure they operate as efficiently as possible.

"They have to come out here and adjust the flows in the canals almost on a daily basis, this time of the year, and so it's actually them maximizing the generation out of these plants," Nielson said.

Nielson says the Verdi facility produces enough energy to power about 1,500 homes. TMWA sells the electricity to NV Energy, which sells it to consumers. The low-cost facilities create revenue that helps offset costs and stabilizes water rates.

"If we weren't generating this, then we would have to buy it from NV Energy ourselves and then there's no offset to cost," Nielson said.

Hydroelectric electricity is a clean, renewable source of energy that Nielson says has the lowest carbon footprint because the plants can operate for so long. It is also efficient because it only requires river flows.

"It's one of the renewables, as long as there's water in the river, we base-load the facilities to full-load and it runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week whether the sun's shining or the wind's blowing," Nielson said. "Other renewables require Mother Nature to cooperate. We just need the river flows and it's a great benefit."

Water is essentially used three times between the three plants, cycled through the plants and back into the river.

"There's no thermal loading of the water," Nielson said. "It's a nonconsumptive use of the water so almost every drop of water that's diverted is returned to the river."

TMWA is offering free tours of the Hydroelectric Plants through the month of September. To RSVP and to check the tour schedule, visit www.tmwa.com/events