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DROPS of Hope

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

Over the last several years SWEP has partnered with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to implement a program offered through the Calif

ornia State Waterboard known as Drought Response Outreach Programs for Schools (DROPS). 

The goal of this collaboration was two-fold.  First, was for TTUSD to implement landscape features to reduce stormwater pollution on school campuses.  Second, was for SWEP to educate students, teachers, and the community on ways we all can improve our watershed. This includes stormwater pollution reduction, water conservation, and increased awareness of water resource sustainability. Through this large project and collaboration we were able to attain these goals and are excited to share our successes with the community.


Part of the reconstruction at Kings Beach Elementary and Truckee High School, includes landscaping features known as Low Impact Development (LID) features.  LIDs mitigate the harmful impacts of stormwater on watershed health by decreasing the volume of stormwater runoff  and increasing the opportunity for stormwater to be filtered before entering nearby creeks and streams.  LID features include permeable pavers, bioretention basins, and infiltration trenches. These three features work together along with native plant species and slope stabilization elements to filter stormwater and improve water quality.  TTUSD values the environment and these LID features are just one example of their commitment to protecting the Lake Tahoe Region.

To help students, teachers, and the community know more about LID features in place at KBE and THS, SWEP has created interpretive signage, posters, brochures, videos and more.  Look for our “Nature at Work” interpretative signage in place on KBE and THS campuses this fall. Our brochure, poster and video can be accessed following the links provided here:  

 All of these forms of outreach provide students, teachers, and the community a better understanding of our local watershed and how they can be part of protecting it.


With the help of students, SWEP designed and created art installations at different TTUSD schools to build awareness of and advocate for the local watershed. At THS, students of all ages created a welded watershed sculpture. We partnered with Truckee Roundhouse and metal artists Matt Parkhurst and Neil Wangsgard to weld this beautiful and interactive metal sculpture that represents the watershed above Donner Lake and emphasizes how we are all connected to the watershed and have a responsibility to protect it. 

At KBE, SWEP worked with students to create a Lake Tahoe Basin Watershed mural that flows from the school yard into the school's storm drain. With the help of local artist Sara Smith, students designed their own stencils to symbolize the importance of protecting the watershed.  Students then used their stencils to create a collaborative art piece  that emphasizes how storm drains flow directly into the lake connecting our school, homes and businesses to our lakes and waterways. By emphasizing this connection, students and staff are asked to reflect on how they can reduce their impact and help improve the watershed.

SWEP also designed and constructed a stormwater filtration demonstration shed at KBE called the “Demo Shed”. The Demo Shed includes a sloped roof with two test plots to explore how vegetation impacts watershed health.  One test plot is vegetated while the other contains bare soil.  During a storm event, stormwater run-off from each test plot can be collected and compared to understand how vegetation helps slow and filter stormwater. This interactive environmental science experiment is just one way that SWEP is inviting students, teachers, and the community to learn about their watershed.

The design, construction, and green roof of the Demo shed would not have been possible without the efforts of so many community partners.  Walton Architecture & Engineering provided the design & engineering expertise.  Oliver Phillips Construction built the shed and installed the green roof framing.  Perennial Nursery provided expertise on plants suitable for this type of green roof.  The Villager Nursery provided expertise on substrate to support the green roof and were able to work with their partners at Kellogg to have over 13 cubic feet of material donated.  Truckee RoundHouse and Kristen Anderson were instrumental in creating beautiful laser etched signage that further explains the Demo shed. Finally, Truckee and North Tahoe High School Envirolution Club members volunteered their time to plant the green roof and bring the whole project to fruition. Future plans for the shed include the design and installation of a habitat wall to support local wildlife. Students from SWEP’s Green Team were involved in creating the initial concept and future Green Team students will continue their efforts.


An important aspect of the education and outreach plan for DROPS included incorporating hands-on watershed education into SWEP’s programs. Students have participated in field programs including Wonders of Watersheds, Sagehen Outdoor Education Program, Tahoe Basin Watershed Education Summit, and Truckee River Day where they gained a deeper understanding of their watershed, how it functions, and what threatens its health.  Students conducted hands-on, science investigations at SWEP’s Science Festivals to understand the impacts of stormwater pollution on overall watershed health.  Students also explored how Low Impact Development features help protect the watershed by slowing and filtering stormwater run-off and had the opportunity to design, create, and test their own stormwater management techniques.  Finally, students in SWEP’s Sustainability Clubs were able to support their school campus by implementing watershed protection projects.  Students from KBE worked as “Watershed Watchers” and conducted routine evaluations of their storm drains culminating in a project with the League to Save Lake Tahoe to make sure all campus storm drains were marked with signage indicating that drains connect to Lake Tahoe and no dumping is permitted.  SWEP’s high school Envirolution Club shared watershed and water conservation messaging as part of their annual school Trashion Show assemblies and community events.

SWEP has been so excited to work with DROPS and TTUSD to educate students, teachers, and the community about the watershed and ways we can improve its water quality. The LID features at KBE and THS will bring benefits to both of the schools and better the stormwater runoff in a natural way. Furthermore, with the creation of the welded watershed sculpture, the watershed mural, and the demo shed, SWEP ensures that our efforts will cultivate long lasting education and outreach sources for the years to come. We hope that through these interactive installations, our Tahoe Basin communities will gain further understanding of the watershed and ways we can help make a difference.

Thank you to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Drought Response Outreach Programs for Schools for supporting these projects.

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