top of page

Show Your Nevada Pride With River-Friendly Landscaping

Funding for One Truckee River is provided by the Western Regional Water Commission

The Parks Foundation and One Truckee River agree: Nevada is a beautiful place to live. And although Nevada Day has just passed, it’s not too late to show some Nevada pride! That’s why we’re letting you know about the River-Friendly Landscaping Initiative, a program from One Truckee River. This program teaches homeowners how to create gorgeous landscapes that protect our local waterways, fits in with your regions’ natural beauty, and shows off your Nevada pride.

So what is a River-Friendly Landscape?

A River-Friendly Landscape is one that is especially designed for all residents of the Truckee Meadows, whether you live near or far from the Truckee River. It will beautify your property, conserve water, reduce yard maintenance and costs, and protect water quality. It doesn’t mean your yard must be wild and uncontrolled, but rather, it will respect the natural attributes of our region and promote the health, diversity, and sustainability of the watershed.

One Truckee River is here to help guide you through the landscape transformation that will protect the Truckee River and make your yard the eNVy of the neighborhood!

River-Friendly Landscapes can have different aesthetics. This example highlights water-wise, pollinator-friendly plants and retention of water onsite with thick layers of wood mulch. (Carrie Jensen)

Why does it matter?

The Truckee River is the lifeblood of our community in the Truckee Meadows! Without this river, we wouldn’t have water for drinking, for irrigating our yards and parks, for growing our food, or for swimming and recreating in. And did you know that the Truckee River is part of a very unique terminal basin, with no water flowing to the ocean? Only about 5% of all watersheds in the world are terminal basins! This accounts for many rare, endemic fish species, like Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui in Pyramid Lake. It also means any pollution that flows into our watershed stays here, which can have harmful cumulative impacts on plants and wildlife as well as society. And a lot of pollutants come from our landscapes and flow through the storm drain system to our local waterways — like oil from car leaks, soapy water from washing cars in the driveway, sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, and even pet waste.

As shown in this drainage in north Reno, pollutants flowing through storm drains can build up quickly in waterways. Nitrogen and phosphorus from synthetic fertilizers used in the landscape can contribute to algae blooms, which deplete the water’s oxygen levels when the algae decays making it difficult for fish and other aquatic species to survive. (Carrie Jensen)

What can I do?

We all have to work together to protect this special place we call home, and there are lots of things you can do to help keep our watershed clean. Many of them start right in your yard. That’s where River-Friendly Landscaping comes in!

The Six Principles of River-Friendly Landscaping

1. Keep Water Onsite

Soak it up! We live in the high desert, so it's really important to retain as much water as possible in our landscapes and be efficient with its use. Don't let that precious water escape into the storm drain. Instead, use rain gardens, dry swales, rain barrels, and permeable paving to soak up water in your landscape. These strategies won’t offset the need for irrigation, but every drop counts in the high desert. And because most of our precipitation comes in the form of snow, another way to keep water onsite is to shovel as much of that snow as possible onto our landscapes instead of onto the street.

Strategies such as rain barrels (left) and dry swales (right) can be used to soak up water in your landscape and keep it out of the storm drain system. (Carrie Jensen)

2. Reduce Pollutants

We depend on the Truckee River for our drinking water supply. Reducing pollutants in our landscapes helps ensure clean water is flowing to the river and out of our taps. To reduce pollutants in our landscapes, try integrated pest management before resorting to pesticides, prioritize organic fertilizers instead of synthetics, and strive for having living roots in the soil in the off-season to reduce erosion. Be careful not to over fertilize or overuse broadleaf weed killers in your lawn. Prevent accidental spills of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals by storing these items in secure areas. To dispose of unused or expired pesticides, contact Brett Allen, Nevada Dept. of Agriculture: 775-353-3715

3. Use Water Wisely

There’s no denying we live in a desert, but that doesn’t mean you have to remove your entire lawn and limit yourself to rocks and cactus. There are lots of climate appropriate plants to consider, and you can even keep some lawn! Try removing small sections of lawn next to the sidewalk and replace it with water-wise and native plants. This conserves water, supports native pollinators, and ensures we’re not watering the sidewalk with our sprinklers. Consider the irrigation schedule for your River-Friendly Landscape to prevent evaporation during the warmer parts of the day, and be sure to follow the Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s assigned watering schedule. If you need help with your irrigation system, consider hiring a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper.

Try planting water-wise plants between the sidewalk and your lawn as a buffer area that prevents sprinklers from overspraying onto the sidewalk. This conserves water and protects our waterways from fertilizer pollutants that can wash off our lawns and into storm drains. (Carrie Jensen)

4. Build Healthy Soils

Soil is the foundation on which we build all healthy landscapes. When we foster healthy soils, they support vigorous plants that are less susceptible to disease and pests and require less maintenance. Try using compost and mulch in your yard to increase organic matter, retain soil moisture, and build healthy soils.

Try using compost as a top dressing to increase the organic matter in your soil. Not only will it help your soil retain more moisture, it also acts as a slow-release fertilizer that reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. (Pixabay Photos)

5. Create Wildlife Habitat

While we’re not looking to attract big wildlife like bears and mountain lions, we can share our landscapes with birds and beneficial insects to help promote the biodiversity of our watershed. Try incorporating a mix of pollinator plants that bloom throughout the growing season, as well as installing bee hotels and nesting boxes for pollinators and birds.

To provide habitat for beneficial insects, you can incorporate plants, like these asters, that provide nectar and pollen. (Carrie Jensen)

6. Prepare for Wildfire

Wildfire is a natural part of the Truckee Meadows and the eastern Sierra ecological cycle. Part of living in this beautiful place is learning to live with fire and managing it in a way that protects our homes and watershed. Be sure to incorporate defensible space, especially if you live on the wildland urban interface. Also tune into UNR’s Living With Fire Program for more information on firescaping.

Need Help Getting Started?

We’ve got you covered! The staff at One Truckee River are always here to help. Check out the River-Friendly Landscaping website or follow One Truckee River on social media (@onetruckeeriver) for more tips and videos. You can also contact Carrie Jensen, PLA at with specific questions and to set up a community workshop. If you can gather at least 12 people, we can provide a free workshop to help you design your very own River-Friendly Landscape, which will be the eNVy of the neighborhood!


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating


Our Top Posts