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Carson Water Subconservancy District Overview

Our Mission: To promote cooperative actions with communities to protect the Carson River Watershed.
Our Vision:
A healthy watershed that meets the water needs of all users.

Carson Water Subconservancy District (CWSD) promotes cooperative action in the Carson River Watershed. CWSD is a unique multi-county, bi-state agency which crosses both political and stakeholder boundaries. CWSD involves all watershed counties and communities to develop regional planning and management solutions for the Carson River Watershed. CWSD Board members are elected officials, agricultural producers and citizens who represent their communities. CWSD leads the integrated watershed planning process in the following categories: water quality, floodplain management, regional water supply, invasive species, river rehabilitation and stabilization, outreach and education, and recreation projects.

  • CWSD has no regulatory authority.
  • CWSD is funded by ad valorem taxes and leverages local dollars with federal and state grants.
  • CWSD funds regional projects to supports its holistic planning process.
  • CWSD’s Adaptive Stewardship Plan for the Carson River Watershed meets the funding requirements of EPA’s clean water act, section 319. This plan was updated in 2017 – click here to review .
  • CWSD facilitates the Carson River Coalition (CRC) to guide the integrated watershed planning process.
  • CWSD is the designated Clean Water Act 208 Planning Agency.
  • CWSD’s is a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) with FEMA and signed a charter agreement with FEMA. As such, CWSD leverages its revenue with FEMA CTP funding.
  • CWSD completed the 2018 Regional Floodplain Management Plan for the Carson River Watershed.
  • In 2022, CWSD launched the I am Carson River Campaign to inform residents they live in a watershed and their actions matter.

History Carson Water Subconservancy District

Check out CWSD timeline to learn the organization’s history.

1959 - 1989 CWSD Early Years

1959 – CWSD was formed to contract with local ranchers and farmers in Douglas and Lyon Counties to guarantee pay back for the Bureau of Reclamation’s construction of Watasheamu Dam and Reservoir. Although that project was abandoned by the federal government in the 1980s, CWSD continued to play a key role in studing and managing the Carson River.

1985 – The Nevada Legislature appointed a special subcommittee to review the need for flood-control storage and water supply in the upper Carson River above Lahontan Reservoir. The subcommittee asked the CWSD to complete a comprehensive water resource plan that including a dam at a new site.


1989 - 1998 CWSD Purpose and Structure Remodeled

1989 – Nevada legislation passed to change the purpose and structure of CWSD pursuant to chapter 541 of Nevada Revised Statute (NRS)

CWSD was directed by the Nevada Legislature to establish a nine- member Board of Directors consisting of five members from Douglas County, of which two members must represent the agricultural interests and two members from Lyon County. Two members from Carson City were added. Because Douglas County had a majority of members, Carson City and Lyon County were given veto power.

1989 – CWSD was given responsibility in NRS 541 for:

  • managing and developing the water resources in the Carson River above Lahontan Dam to alleviate reductions or loss of water supply
  • reducing the fragmented responsibilities for conservation and supply of water, and,
  • protecting against threats to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the Carson River Basin.

1998 – Carson River Conference was held in Carson City.

After the 1997 flood, stakeholders from throughout the watershed discussed the need for better watershed management and the idea of Integrated Watershed Management in the Carson River Watershed was concieved.  CWSD was asked to serve as the lead agency for watershed planning and management for the Carson River Basin.  As a result, full-time staff members were hired.

1998 – Carson River Coalition (CRC) formed to serve as the steering committee for watershed planning efforts.

1999 - Present

1999 – The Nevada Legislature amended the previous legislation to allow Churchill County to become a member of the CWSD.  Two Churchill County members were added to board to represent the watershed below Lahontan Reservoir, expanding the board from nine to eleven members.

1999 – The Nevada Legislature assigned CWSD the task of administering the AB 380 Newlands Water Rights Purchase and Retirement Program.  The goal was for CWSD to purchase/transfer and permanently retire 6,500 acres of water rights to remove litigation filed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe on water right owners in the Newlands Project in Churchill County.  This program was able to permanently retire approximately 4,000 acres of water rights.

1999 – Carson River Watershed Coordinator funded after CWSD received funding from Nevada Department of Environmental Protection using 319 funding.

2000 – CWSD hired Brown and Caldwell to evaluate the Marlette – Hobart Water System.

2001 – Alpine County, California joined CWSD, making it a bi-state agency when CWSD and Alpine County, California entered into a Joint Powers Agreement pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Act (California Government Code § 6500 et seq.) and the Interlocal Cooperation Act (Nevada Revised Statutes § 277.080-277.180). CWSD Board of Directors was expanded to 13 members representing all regions of the watershed.

2003 – CWSD appointed by Nevada’s Governor as Clean Water Act – Section 208 Water Quality Management Planning Entity for the Carson River Watershed.

2003 – CWSD was awarded a million dollar grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade the Marlette Water System. As grant administrator, CWSD worked with Carson City, State of Nevada, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and others to complete this project in September of 2009.

2004 – CWSD hosted the Carson River Watershed Conference entitled “Conserving Our Lifeline in the Desert Through Community Development and Floodplain Management”. Over 120 people attended representing all regions of the watershed.  This conference provided the foundation for development of a Regional Floodplain Management Program for the Carson River Watershed.

2004 – CWSD received the Wendell McCurry 2004 Excellence in Water Quality Award from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) for its leadership role to improve water quality, riparian habitat, and watershed health in the Carson River Basin.

2005 – CWSD and FEMA enter into Cooperating Technical Partner Agreement.

2005 – CWSD hosted the Carson River Symposium featuring a wide-range of speakers seeking to explain the function and administration of the Carson River.  The symposium was attended by 175 representatives from a diverse mix of public and private agencies  and organizations, education institutions, developers, and press from throughout the watershed.

2005 – CWSD completed the update of the 1982 Carson Basin 208 Water Quality Management Plan which was submitted to NDEP.

2007 – CWSD, with input from the Carson River Coalition, developed the Adaptive Stewardship Plan for the Carson River Watershed.  This plan meets the EPA’s 9 requirements to receive funding for impaired waters and allows entities within the Carson River Watershed to apply for 319 funding from the EPA.

2008 – CWSD developed the Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan, with input from the Carson River Coalition.  This plan was adopted by all five counties located along the Carson River.

2009 – Storey County added an advisory member of the CWSD Board.  Its representative on the CWSD Board is appointed by the Storey County Board of Commissioners.

2012 – CWSD, the various counties located along the Carson River, and State and Federal agencies entered into a Risk MAP Charter Agreement with FEMA.  The Charter agreement enables FEMA and CWSD to work on flood-related issues on a watershed basis instead on a county-by-county basis.  The Charter agreement creates a process where FEMA, CWSD, and partners will work together to establish a consistent flow of information about project status, timelines, and next steps. This is the first Charter Agreement that FEMA Region 9 has entered into and has become a blueprint for other regional cooperation program in other parts of the country.

2013 – CWSD developed Comprehensive Regional Water System Plan that evaluated the future water demands for all the major water purveyors in the watershed.  The report identified possible future regional pipelines and interties to enhance the regional water supply.

2013 – The Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan was updated and adopted by all the counties within the Carson River Watershed.

2017 – The Adaptive Stewardship Plan for the Carson River Watershed was updated and adopted by the CWSD Board.

2018 – CWSD hosted a Water Summit on January 30, 2018, which focused on the future water supply.

2018 – A Watershed Forum was held on April 11-12, 2018, with a focus on floodplain management on the first day and watershed-wide issues on the second day.

2018 – CWSD held a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Carson River Coalition at The Nature Conservancy’s River Fork Ranch near Genoa.  It was attended by approximately 100 partners and residents.

2018 – With input from the Carson River Coalition and all the counties within the watershed, the Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan was updated, revised, and adopted by the CWSD Board.  It is being presented to each of the counties within the watershed for adoption.

You can also learn more about CWSD’s work by visiting River Projects page.