Walker Basin Conservancy’s mission is to preserve Walker Lake by protecting and conserving watershed resources throughout the Walker River Basin.
Walker Basin Conservancy (WBC) was established in 2014 and became operational in 2015. A growing 501(c)(3) non-profit, WBC serves to implement and manage long-term land stewardship activities and other actions associated with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Walker Basin Restoration Program (Program). The Program was established by Congress in October 2009 for the purpose of restoring and maintaining Walker Lake.
Walker Lake is a natural desert lake located at the eastern terminus of the Walker River in Nevada, with this system’s headwaters located in California’s Sierra Nevada. Ongoing loss of fresh water flows to Walker Lake has caused its elevation to drop nearly 150 feet and lose roughly 80% of its volume during the past century. As a result of declining water levels, salinity in the lake has increased dramatically to the point that the lake can no longer support its native fish and wildlife populations.
Through an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, NFWF has been managing the Program since January 2010 prior to the establishment of WBC. As currently arranged, NFWF continues to remain involved with the Program, responsible for water acquisitions and change approvals, while WBC is responsible for the on-the-ground operations associated with the Program including: land management, overseeing re-vegetation activities, farm leases, and daily operations and oversight of physical assets located in the Walker Basin. WBC is funded by a grant from NFWF.
Ranching and farming in the walker basin:
During the last quarter of the 19th century, farmers and cattlemen established communities in the Walker River Basin, part of the ancestral home of the Northern Paiute people. Natural flows from the Walker River were diverted to support hay, pasture, and other irrigated crops. In the 1920s, the newly formed Walker River Irrigation District (WRID) built a pair of dams on the east and west forks of the Walker River to store winter and early spring runoff for use later in the season when natural flows ran out. In addition, Weber Dam was built on the Walker River Paiute Tribe Reservation in 1935.
For decades, diversions from the river have sustained a strong agricultural economy but produced an unintended consequence: dramatically reduced freshwater inflows to Walker Lake, a natural desert lake at the terminus of the Walker River in Nevada.