Carson City, Nevada has a history of flooding every five to seven years, yet residents are largely unaware of their flood risk and the benefits from keeping floodplains in their natural state. Flood awareness is important given the city’s flood history. Twenty-nine floods have been recorded since Carson City was founded in 1851.
In 1997, a major flood in Carson City caused roughly $5 million in damage. The communities affected by that flood formed the Carson River Coalition (CRC). The coalition’s mission is to reduce flood damage in the Carson River watershed. Carson City and the six counties in the coalition adopted a regional floodplain management plan in 2018 to help achieve that mission.
The coalition’s floodplain management plan notes that while development will occur in the watershed, their goal is to maintain floodplains in their natural state to the extent possible. To support this goal Carson City wants to increase its residents’ understanding of their community’s flood risk and the benefits natural floodplains offer.
A floodplain is the low-lying area next to a river that temporarily stores floodwaters. Floodplains kept in their natural state are valuable as they:
- slow flood waters,
- reduce downstream damage,
- provide habitat for animals and vegetation,
- filter pollutants, and
- recharge groundwater.
The Carson Water Subconservancy District (CWSD) worked with FEMA’s High-Water Mark Initiative to make a mural showing how high flood waters can get along Eagle Creek in Carson City. The mural is referred to as the high-water mark mural. This location was chosen because Eagle Creek flooded in the past and there is a risk that it will flood again in the future.
A Carson City resident designed the mural, and it was painted on Eagle Creeks’ concrete floodwall. The colorful mural shows wildlife and vegetation native to Eagle Creek. It also shows the 2017 flood water height and how high the flood water could potentially get each year (if a 1% annual chance event occurs).
An interpretive sign on the trail side of Eagle Creek talks about the mural, river conservation, and past floods. The QR codes on the sign help viewers learn more about the City’s flood risk and how to reduce it. The sign also supports the City’s Community Rating System (CRS) program. The program gives residents discounts on their flood insurance policies when the community adopts higher floodplain management standards.
The district is a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) with FEMA. They work together to reduce flood risk in the Carson River watershed. FEMA and Carson City have a strong relationship focused on protecting the watershed and keeping the community safe from flood damage. The mural was funded by a CTP grant.
The mural was revealed as part of a Disaster Preparedness Festival in August 2022. The mural and sign show residents that while floods happen the city is working to protect the community from future flood damage. The festival was promoted by the district and highlighted by local news outlets and FEMA on their blog.
The unique and creative mural highlights a local artist and is a win for Carson City. It will be seen by many people. Hopefully it will inspire them to talk about past floods and how to keep safe from future flooding. The mural also brought federal agencies together to support a common goal. The agencies include FEMA, Nevada Division of Army Resources, National Weather Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Carson City high-water mark mural serves as both a teaching tool and a reminder of the past. It is a positive example of what can happen when multiple partners work together to create a distinctive outreach project. Another mural is being planned for the Carson River in 2023.
- Nevada Floods
- FEMA Glossary
- High-Water Mark Initiative
- Flood Hazard Reduction Plans and Documents – Carson Water Subconservancy District (cwsd.org)
- Carson River Watershed Floodplain Management Plan 2018
- Carson City Public Works News Release
- Floodplain Protection Inventory for the Carson River (cwsd.org)
- Regional Floodplain Management in the Carson River Watershed | FEMA.gov
- Draft Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan (cwsd.org)
- Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan Supplemental Update 2013
- YouTube Video of the Disaster Preparedness Festival in August 2022
- Coordinated floodplain projects prepare Carson City for future | Serving Carson City for over 150 years (nevadaappeal.com)
- New High-Water Mark in Carson City Combines Art and Education | FEMA.gov
- Carson City, Water District hosts High Water Icon Unveiling Ceremony, Disaster Preparedness Fest. Carson City Nevada News – Nevada News (darik.news)
- High-Water Mark – Understanding Flood Risk – Carson Water Subconservancy District (cwsd.org)