Storm water preparations at Swan Lake

by | Jan 13, 2023

We are well into a new year, and “atmospheric river” is the phrase of the day. We have seen back-to-back storms bring a mix of snow and rain to the entire region and in some areas we have already seen localized flooding. In response the Washoe County Community Services Department (CSD) is in a “monitor and measured response” status. What does this mean?

Our engineers and crews are making site visits to the known hot spots around the county, watching for debris that can impede drainages and keeping an eye on the potential for flooding. Additionally, they are measuring water elevations at key closed basin and drainage areas. They review lake elevations, snowpack, soil moisture, weather forecasts, and other variables to extrapolate future water levels and potential threats.

Swan Lake is a key hot spot because it is a closed basin. After the 2017 weather event that resulted in extremely high-water levels, CSD worked with regional and federal partners to develop responses specific to our closed basin topography in northern Nevada. These responses include mitigation measures to put in place as certain conditions are met while we continue to monitor the variables mentioned above.

As the current series of storms has made this water year the second wettest on record, second only to 2017, and resulted in a current snowpack is more than double the normal levels, we are at a point that we are beginning to position our staff, supplies, and infrastructure for a rise in water levels, including water levels in Swan Lake.

  • We have begun purchasing flood protection barriers in order to be prepared in case we need them. This does not mean that they will be installed, just that we will be ready if we need to install them. We did not have a stockpile of barriers in 2017, and we do not want to be in that position if we need them.
  • If we get to the next trigger point of needing to install flood barriers, we will NOT be placing them on Lemmon Drive. If they must be used, they will be generally situated well off the edge of the roadway, not on the pavement. This is to lessen the visual and physical impact on residents, and to maintain safe driving conditions on Lemmon Drive.
  • We will not be installing pumps in the same areas as we had to do in 2017. If needed, they will be placed in areas that are away from roadways and to the greatest degree from residences.
  • In the next week or two, staff will begin to prepare some areas near Pompe Drive if barriers need to be installed. Residents may see some work beginning in that area, and we want you to know that it is part of our preparation efforts.
  • We have heard from a few residents that they are concerned with standing water in roadside ditches.  We are very aware of this and please understand that standing water in ditches is to be expected in low-lying areas.

Finally, we know that uncertainty is scary. We want residents to understand the risk factors of living in a flood-prone areas and the steps that Washoe County will take when certain levels are reached. Please take a moment to review our new Stormwater Response page on our website, and view the live Swan Lake webcam here.

Residents can also view the water levels at each of our North Valleys closed basins here. Please sign up on the website for email updates.

We are happy to answer questions and response to concerns from our community. Please reach out to us by contacting Washoe311 at 3-1-1 or