Walker Basin FAQ


ring the last quarter of the 19th century, farmers and cattlemen established communities in the Walker Basin in Mason and Smith valleys. For decades, diversions from the river to sustain a strong agricultural economy produced an unintended consequence: dramatically reduced freshwater flows to Walker Lake. Decreased flows have led to a decrease in lake volume and an increase in tot

Why is Walker Lake declining? block-yui_3_17_2_1_1555978693281_6385

Water Conservation means the conservation of water

During the last quarter of the 19th century, farmers and cattlemen established communities in the Walker Basin in Mason and Smith valleys. For decades, diversions from the river to sustain a strong agricultural economy produced an unintended consequence: dramatically reduced freshwater flows to Walker Lake. Decreased flows have led to a decrease in lake volume and an increase in total dissolved solids (TDS) to the point the lake can no longer support fish and wildlife populations.
More information on the history of Walker Lake here.

Are there fish in Walker Lake?

Currently there are no fish in Walker Lake. Once the TDS levels reached 16,000 mg/L native Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) were no longer able to survive in Walker Lake. In February 2017 the TDS levels were at 29,000 mg/L; however, an incredibly large snowpack in 2017 has led to increased freshwater flows to Walker Lake and TDS levels dropped to 25,500 mg/L in May 2017.

The WBC’s long-term TDS goal will have the lake average between 10,000 mg/L and 12,000 mg/L. With these levels LCT could be stocked in the lake without any acclimation. The last time the lake saw these TDS levels were 1988 and 2001 respectively.

What is a terminal lake?

Walker Lake is a desert terminal lake meaning that it has no outlet. Evaporation is the only source of water loss from the lake. All Walker Basin Restoration Program acquired water will be legally protected in the Walker River down to Walker Lake.

How can I track how much water is reaching Walker Lake?

The Program is currently providing grant funding to USGS for the Walker Basin Hydro Mapper. The Hydro Mapper allows interested parties to track real-time flows from Topaz and Bridgeport reservoirs downstream to Walker Lake. For Walker Lake you can view current elevation and volume. Percent full refers to the volume needed to reach 10,000 TDS levels which is 2.8 million acre-feet.

Since 2011, WBRP has been moving through the legal process to protect its first acquired water rights (7.75 cfs) instream down to Walker Lake. The legal process started by submitting a change application with the Nevada State Engineer’s (NSE) Office, changing the purpose and place of use to instream for wildlife purposes. In 2013, the NSE approved the WBRP change application, with negotiated agreements, and the ruling was then sent to the federal Walker Decree Court. In 2015, the judge ruled that the water rights could be transferred instream down to the point Walker River reaches Walker Lake, but that the rights would have to be held to historic use. Soon after the ruling, the NSE, WBRP and other parties appealed the ruling to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments, before a panel of three judges at the Ninth Circuit, are set for August 30, 2017.

More information regarding WBC’s timeline for legally protecting water can be found here.

 

Walker River State Recreation Area FAQ


Who is behind the reconveyance?

The primary purpose of the Walker Basin Restoration Program is to acquire and protect water rights. Throughout the acquisition process many large ranches (land and water) on the East Walker River were purchased. These ranches have high conservation value, so WBC wanted to make sure that they were protected over the long term while allowing for the public to access these areas that have been privately held. Discussions with Nevada State parks led to an amazing opportunity for protection of the natural resource while allowing for public access.

How many acres were conveyed to the State of Nevada for the Walker River State Recreation Area?

The July 2017 conveyance of three historic East Walker River properties (Pitchfork, Rafter 7 and Flying M) totaled 12,112 acres and included 29.7 miles of the East Walker River.

Which areas are currently open to the public?

In July 2017, the conveyance of the properties for the establishment of the Walker River State Recreation Area (WRSRA) was completed. However, in the short-term only a section of the Rafter 7 Ranch and the “Elbow” area in Mineral County, both of which had previously been open to the public, will be available for public access. For more information on Rafter 7 Ranch access, please visit our Outdoor Recreation page. Nevada State Parks will open additional locations to the public in the future. Please refer to their webpage for more information.

How can I track how much water is reaching Walker Lake?

The Program is currently providing grant funding to USGS for the Walker Basin Hydro Mapper. The Hydro Mapper allows interested parties to track real-time flows from Topaz and Bridgeport reservoirs downstream to Walker Lake. For Walker Lake you can view current elevation and volume. Percent full refers to the volume needed to reach 10,000 TDS levels which is 2.8 million acre-feet.

What is WBC’s commitment for land stewardship on the East Walker properties reconveyed to the State of Nevada?

WBC has committed approximately $5.2 million dollars and stewardship staff through 2023 to complete land stewardship activities on 2,900 acres of formerly cultivated land in the WRSRA.

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