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Natural Environment Graphic



Ask anyone living in the Truckee Meadows what they love most about this area and chances are that they will mention northern Nevada's stunning mountain vistas, abundant rivers and creeks, sweeping vistas, and the ability to get out and enjoy these resources in quick measure. Typically, our natural environment ranks in the top three reasons why people live, work, play, and stay in the Truckee Meadows.

Quality of life includes air and water that are clean and accessible to everyone. It means that we can enjoy the diverse and beautiful lands, plants, and animals that make our Truckee Meadows so desirable and that varied land uses support many different types of active outdoor lifestyles.​

To learn more about each indicator, simply click on the icon, chart, map, or graph to be directed to the Community Data Portal, where you will see maps, charts, graphs, year-over-year comparisons, and more.***

***Please note that graphs and other visual aids may only be visible on a desktop or laptop computer. If you are viewing this page on a mobile device, please switch to a desktop or laptop computer for the best viewing experience and the most access to information. 

Overall Community Natural Environment Grade

Very Good Face grade


Overall Community Natural Environment Grade

Very Good Rating Scale
A picture of a lake in Nevada.
Natural Environment


With less than 7.5" of rainfall per year, using our limited water resources wisely is crucial. Efficient water consumption and conservation are key to ensuring water sources for the future. One effort is our "living river" system that helps improve Truckee River water quality for many uses, from drinking water to recreation to wildlife habitat. 

Water demand depends on residential household use, commercial use in the production of goods and services, and irrigation (dependent upon landscaping and weather). As the region grows, the population, housing units, and landscaping drive residential demand, the most significant component of Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) system use. According to the 2008-2030 Water Resource Plan, TMWA expects to meet projected retail water use through 2030, but conservation measures will play a more prominent role as the drought years continue. Water conservation efforts are also a key requirement of the region's agreements under the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA). Water conservation helps keep the costs down for consumers since we do not have to build a new water treatment plant, and we can delay finding new water supply sources.

This indicator looks at the annual water consumption in the Truckee Meadows Water Authority's jurisdiction. 

Water Consumption

Annual Water Consumption


The physical environment includes the parts of where we live and work (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, and parks). The environment influences a person's level of physical activity and ability to have healthy lifestyle behaviors. For example, inaccessible or nonexistent sidewalks or walking paths increase sedentary habits. These habits contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Other factors that contribute to healthy lifestyle behaviors are access to grocery stores and farmer's markets, recreation facilities, and the presence of a clean and safe physical environment.

This indicator shows the ranking of the county's physical environment according to the County Health Rankings. The ranking is based on a summary composite score calculated from the following measures: daily fine particulate matter, drinking water violations, severe housing problems, driving alone to work, and long commute while driving alone.

Physical Env Ranking

Physical Environment Ranking

Washoe County has a physical environment ranking of 15.
Washoe county's physical environment ranks among the worst in Nevada.
Technical note about the physical environment: Counties are ranked on a variety of health measure.
Graph showing the physical environment ranking over years showing notably worse scores.


One key indicator of quality of life is air quality. The region’s air quality affects the health of our more vulnerable citizens and impacts an active outdoor lifestyle important for tourism and attracting young professionals to the region.

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards measure the region’s air quality affecting our health and outdoor lifestyle, important for tourism and attracting young professionals to the region. We often think of wildfires being the leading cause of air pollution but this indicator is also influenced by the following:

  • Weather (e.g., high wind and blowing dust)

  • Vehicle miles traveled

  • Congestion

  • Public transportation

  • Alternative transportation

  • Smoke from wildfires, controlled burns, or fireplaces

  • Industries

  • How often the roads are sanded

This indicator looks at the Air Quality Index for Washoe County.

Air Quality

Washoe County Air Quality


The National Parks & Recreation Association recommends 10 acres of community parks and 20 acres of regional parks per 1,000 population. Washoe County ranks with less than half that amount. 

Access to parks provides outside activities and healthy living opportunities during all seasons. The Truckee Meadows Regional Plan promotes an integrated open space and greenways network linked to parks, bike routes, pedestrian walkways, trails, and neighborhood facilities.

Development acres dedicated to parks on an ongoing basis are needed to maintain adequate parklands. Augmenting the neighborhood-community parkland inventory are very small parks, special purpose parks, public golf courses, undeveloped parkland, and open space. These lands provide recreational opportunities, contribute to our outdoor experience, and should be recognized in park planning. They do not, however, provide unlimited public use and access, nor do they always offer the standard amenities of a neighborhood and community park. They are thus handled separately in the inventory. 

This indicator shows acres of parkland available for every 1,000 residents in the cities of Reno and Sparks, and all of Washoe County. The National Recreation Planning Association recommends a total of 6.25 to 10.50 acres of parkland be available for every 1,000 residents.

Parks Acreage

Washoe County Park Acreage Rate

Washoe county park average per 1,000 people: 3.94
Washoe is trending downward and is not maintaining a good park to population ratio.
Technical note: This info is located in the City of Sparks Comprehensive Annual Report.
Graph showing park acreage per 1,000 people since 1997. Washoe park ratio has decreased since 2003.


The majority of Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) water comes from the Truckee River, with additional demand from groundwater from deep-water aquifers. This is approximately 8% of the total flow of the Truckee River in a drought year and less in non-drought years. During a typical year, TMWA only uses 3-9% of the total flow of the Truckee River to meet customers' needs.

Water treatment is more expensive than preventing pollution. This is critical in a region with less than 7.5" of annual rainfall, one that also supports fish and wildlife habitats and year-round recreation. Consequently, TMWA is a Partnership for Safe Water member and implements prevention programs where legislation and regulation do not exist to increase drinking water protection against microbial contamination. Since 2000, TMWA's drinking water has continued to completely comply with all EPA and State of Nevada standards and regulations. Check out TMWA's Truckee Meadows watershed map/video for more information.

Drinking water

Washoe County Drinking Water Quality

Washoe County Water Quality Data Test Results for 2020
Inorganic contaminants and other contaminants  in Washoe county water (Table)

Key Takeaways

Overall, much of the data and research typically published to help determine this report were unavailable or not updated in 2020. So much of the world's energy went into tracking, surviving, and recovering from COVID-19 that significant reports and research projects were set aside. Despite the challenges, this preparation for this report uncovered several key takeaways.

  • While Truckee Meadows Water Authority's water production was higher than consumption in 2019 and 2020, there was an increase in retail use and gallons of water per person use from 2019 to 2020. 

  • Prior to 2019, the trends for water use by both retail and individuals had been on a downward trajectory since 2012. As the population grows, this is an important metric to follow.

  • On a scale of 1 to 20, Washoe County's rating was 15 when assessing the physical environment, which measures access to sidewalks, open space and recreation areas, air quality, housing issues, number of carpoolers, and distance of the average daily commute. This rating is lower than other counties in Nevada. 

  • Air Quality in Washoe County is a metric to watch as extreme weather events such as high wind and dust storms and wildfires increase. In 2020 there was an increase in the number of days with higher levels of particulate matter due to extreme weather events and an increase in ozone. 

  • Washoe County has fewer parks and open spaces than is recommended for its size. There has been a steady decrease in open space and park acreage since 2009, which can have adverse health and quality of life impacts.

  • In 2020, drinking water quality in Washoe County had no violations of the EPA standards for contaminants. However, inorganic, organic, and radioactive containments were recorded at the highest acceptable level, and with climate changes, drinking water quality continues to be a critical metric to track.


The region's climate resiliency will continue to greatly determine the quality of life for those who call Truckee Meadows their home. The data sets on this page are essential to maintaining a thriving community and economy. The physical environment creates a foundation for old and new businesses alike, making our region a sought-after destination. Our region will need to monitor these data sets and use this information to find complex solutions for urban development in a changing natural world to be a leader in the west.

TMT Sun Logo


Truckee Meadow's Parks Foundation Logo

Educating for a

Sustainable Nevada

The Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge builds a community of passionate, outdoor people who are invested in protecting their environment. Throughout the past year, the foundation has identified and implemented new strategies for making a lasting impact on our community members' behavior to protect the environment.

The Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation ensures that outdoor recreation opportunities are accessible and inviting for everyone in the community. The biggest hurdle the Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge faces is capacity. There are more individuals interested in the program than staffing allows.

The Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation and the Truckee Meadows Trails Working Group collaboratively hired a Regional Trails Coordinator to manage the master planning of the regional trails and greenways process. This implementation will be significant in developing a sustainable trail system that connects the community to the natural environment.

Kids at a Truckee Meadows park.
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