Skip to main content

NID Infrastructure

May contain: clothing, hardhat, helmet, person, worker, footwear, shoe, adult, male, man, accessories, and glasses

What is water infrastructure?

Infrastructure is everything it takes to get water to you. 

At NID, this includes dams, reservoirs, treatment facilities, canals, conduits and pipes. In addition, the District generates hydropower, which requires power plants, afterbays and forebays. Together, these components work together to capture, store, treat and deliver water to customers. 

For 100 years, NID has delivered water to customers in Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties. What began as an old reservoir and canal system serving gold mines has been transformed into a modern water distribution system.

Each year, the District provides water to irrigate 32,000 acres of agricultural land, and it treats three billion gallons of water for drinking and household use. NID also generates enough hydroelectricity to power 60,000 homes.

All of this requires a complex network of diverse infrastructure.

NID water originates as snowmelt of the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada near the headwaters of the Yuba River, Bear River and Deer Creek. The District stores water in 29 reservoirs, and later moves it through one of six treatment plants and hundreds of miles of canals and pipe to become drinking and irrigation water for 25,000 homes, farms, and businesses.

Let’s break down the infrastructure needed to deliver raw water for irrigation and treated water for drinking and household uses, as well as hydropower.


Bowman Dam

Simply, dams control water. NID managers make sure the right amount of water is at the right place at the right time. River water rises behind dams, forming artificial lakes called reservoirs. The stored water can be used to generate electricity or to supply water for irrigation and for use in homes and businesses.

NID owns and operates 15 dams with different functions and sizes.

  • The largest dam and reservoir is Rollins, which has a water capacity of about 66,000 acre-feet.
  • Jackson Meadows Dam is the tallest at 195 feet.

The history of NID’s infrastructure dates back to the California Gold Rush. French Dam, constructed in 1858-59, is the District’s oldest dam still in use. Other older dams include the Bowman Rockfill dam (1869), and Faucherie (1872), Sawmill (1910) and Jackson have since been torn down and rebuilt. In the lower division, Van Giesen Dam at Combie Reservoir was built in 1928.

Learn more about each of the NID dams. Click here for the dams page.


May contain: lake, nature, outdoors, water, plant, tree, fir, scenery, boat, transportation, and vehicle
Sawmill Lake

A reservoir is an enlarged lake created behind a dam. NID owns and operates 29 reservoirs, which vary greatly in size and function.

In the upper division, storage reservoirs capture snowmelt during the spring and it is stored until District water managers release the water slowly over the following weeks and months for use by NID customers.

Another vital function is flood risk management. Reservoirs collect water during times of high rainfall and hold it back, reducing flood risk.  

  • The reservoir with the most capacity: Rollins Reservoir
  • Highest elevation: French Lake (6,666 feet)
  • Lowest elevation: Combie Reservoir (1,610 feet)

Learn more about each of the NID reservoirs. Click here for the reservoirs page.

May contain: outdoors, water, wheel, and machine
Chicago Park Powerhouse


NID’s seven hydroelectric power plants have the capacity of 82.2 megawatts and produce approximately 375 million kilowatt hours per year.

NID began producing power in 1966 with the completion of the Yuba-Bear Power Project, which included the Chicago Park and Dutch Flat powerhouses. The Rollins powerhouse was added in 1980. To make use of existing water releases, small power plants were added during the 1980s at Bowman, Scotts Flat and Combie reservoirs.

Click here for the powerplants page.

Water treatment plants

Water treatment is any process that improves the quality of water to make it appropriate for a specific end-use. At NID, it’s for drinking and household use.

Technician at one of NID’s water treatment plants ensuring our water meets all standards and regulations.

The District treats and distributes more than 3.1 billion gallons of surface water each year. This water originates in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, originating at the Middle and South Yuba Rivers, the Bear River, the north fork of the North Fork American River, and Deer Creek.

NID routes and transports this water through canal and reservoir infrastructure to NID’s five treatment plants. Here, the water is treated to standards that exceed state and federal public health standards.

Click here to learn more about NID Treatment Plants:

Conveyance and delivery system

May contain: water, outdoors, person, and human

A conveyance system allows the transport of water from the origins in the High Sierra to District customers in the foothills. NID’s system dates back to the California Gold Rush and the ditches dug by miners in their quest to get rich.

When NID formed in 1921, the ditch systems were revamped and expanded to deliver irrigation water and also for use in the District’s hydropower aspirations. In the next 100 years, NID refined and expanded its system. Today, the two major distribution and storage systems are the Deer Creek System and the Bear River System. These are a mixture of canals, siphons, pipelines, and other water conveyance structures.

Read more about how water gets to you. Click here to the conveyance and delivery system page.


Water Storage and Purpose

Our water is used for many purposes in our homes, irrigating our crops and pastures, and putting out fires. However, some people might not immediately realize that it's also used for purposes such as power and recreation.

So let's take a look at some of the places we store and divert water to, as well as its purpose:

Yuba River Watershed
  • Jackson Meadows Campground - Domestic
  • Milton Diversion Dam - Domestic, irrigation, power, recreation, stock water, fire protection
  • Drum Canal - Power
  • South Yuba Canal - Power
Canyon Creek watershed
  • Sawmill Lake - Domestic, irrigation, power
  • French Lake - Domestic, irrigation, power
  • Bowman Lake - Irrigation, municipal, industrial, stock water, fire protection, recreation
  • Faucherie Lake - Domestic, irrigation, power, municipal, industrial, stock water, fire protection
  • Bowman Powerhouse - Power
Deer Creek watershed
  • Keystone Canal - Irrigation, stock water
  • Tunnel Canal - Domestic, irrigation, stock water, fire protection, recreation
  • Newtown Canal - Domestic, irrigation, stock water, fire protection, recreation
  • D/S Canal - Domestic, irrigation, stock water, fire protection, recreation, municipal, industrial
  • Cascade Canal - Domestic, irrigation, stock water, fire protection, recreation, industrial
  • Scotts Flat - Irrigation, domestic, stock water, fire protection, recreation, power




Join our mailing list