In 2017 the Walker Basin Conservancy (WBC) accepted the lead for all Walker Basin Restoration Program (WBRP) activities. The WBRP was established by Public Law 111-85 (2009) for the primary purpose of restoring and maintaining Walker Lake, and to protect agricultural, environmental and habitat interests in the Walker Basin consistent with that primary purpose.
Many decades of reduced freshwater inflows have resulted in declines of the lake level and increases in lake salinity, which today threaten to cause its complete ecological collapse. The health of Walker Lake is critical to recovery of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, and the lake has long been an important stopover for common loons and other migratory waterfowl. (See more about the history of Walker Lake).
Acquisitions of land and water
WBRP works in partnership with local communities, private landowners, water managers, tribes and a variety of public agencies. It supports voluntary sale and lease of water and related interests, as well as associated conservation, stewardship and research activities. To date WBRP has expended approximately $75 million to acquire up to 40 percent of the water needed to restore and maintain Walker Lake to a long-term average of 10,000 mg/L TDS.
Legally Protecting Water Instream
After the water is purchased it must be protected in the river to reliably increase instream flows to Walker Lake.
Before acquired water can flow to Walker Lake, the purpose and place of use have to be changed through a process that generally begins with the Nevada State Engineer and ends with final approvals by the federal Walker River Decree court. Once the various legal approvals are complete, the water will be protected permanently for the instream benefit of Walker River and Walker Lake.
WBRP has worked closely with the Walker River Paiute Tribe to finalize a lower Walker River conveyance agreement to ensure that acquired water flows efficiently instream through the Tribe’s reservation to Walker Lake while protecting the Tribe’s water rights.
The first change application was submitted to the Nevada State Engineer and is currently at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Below is a timeline that outlines the major events of the first change application: