Across many river basins in the arid Western United States, upstream surface water reservoirs store snowmelt runoff to meet downstream water demand. A collaborative modeling research program in the Truckee River Basin iteratively convenes researchers and local water managers to

  1. assess water management challenges under climate change,
  2. identify strategies to adapt water management,
  3. prioritize research and modeling activities, and
  4. collaboratively review findings.

This paper presents selected research program results that identify fixed date-based reservoir operations based on stationary climate as a barrier to adapt to warmer temperatures, earlier Sierra Nevada snowmelt runoff, and shifts in streamflow timing. Using an integrated hydrologic and operations model tailored to the river basin, researchers demonstrate that under a warmer climate, earlier peak streamflow compromises reservoir storage. Simulations that allow for earlier storage absorb streamflow timing shifts, providing measurable benefits upstream in the reservoir and downstream for diverse water-use communities. Researchers review simulation results with managers to assess the on-the-ground potential and identify additional research opportunities that meet local information needs. This paper illustrates the utility of integrating local knowledge with applied climate science research to support adaptive water management in snow-fed river basins.

Sterle, K., Jose, L., Coors, S., Singletary, L., Pohll, G., and Rajagopal, S. 2020, Collaboratively Modeling Reservoir Reoperation to Adapt to Earlier Snowmelt Runoff, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 146(1), 05019021

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Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
Climate change threatens Indigenous peoples' livelihood & economies, including agriculture, hunting & gathering, fishing, forestry, energy, recreation, & tourism enterprises. The economies rely on, but face institutional barriers to their self-determined management of water, land...
Jantarasami, L.C., Novak, R., Delgado, R., Marino, E., McNeeley, S., Narducci, C., Singletary, L., Raymond-Yakoubian, J., & Rowys Whyte, K. 2018, Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, & B.C. Stewart (Eds.), Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. Washington, DC: US Global Change Research Program, pp. 572–603.
Adapting to Variable Water Supply in the Truckee-Carson River System: Results of Focus Groups Conducted in 2016 with Local Water Managers
Water for the Seasons is an integrated research and Extension program that partners researchers with community stakeholders in the Truckee-Carson River System to explore new strategies and solutions for dealing with droughts and floods.
Sterle, K. and Singletary, L. 2017, Extension I University of Nevada, Reno, SP-17-15

Associated Programs

lake tahoe

Water for the Seasons

Water for the Seasons (WftS) is a program that partners scientists with community water managers and water right holders in the Truckee-Carson River System (TCRS), to explore new strategies and solutions for dealing with extreme climate events such as droughts and floods.