April 22, 2024

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Established 2021

Walker River in Mason Valley 2022 ~ photo by Walker Basin Conservancy

USGS Report Raises Concerns About Walker Basin Groundwater Usage

January 24, 2023

For Immediate Release: Report Raises Concerns About Walker Basin Groundwater Usage

Yerington, NV

While recent storms have provided needed precipitation to a region suffering a prolonged drought, a recent U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) report raises concerns for area water usage. According to the report, levels of groundwater pumping in both Mason Valley and Smith Valley within the Walker Basin have reached levels that even major storms cannot replenish. Groundwater pumping is also affecting river flows by pulling increasing volumes of water from the Walker River to replenish declining groundwater levels. This is river water that likely once served additional surface water rights or reached Walker Lake.

A recent USGS press release about the report states, “Reliance on supplemental groundwater pumpage has resulted in widespread groundwater storage decline and decreased stream efficiency. With each successive drought cycle, the ability of Walker River to sustain stream flows and convey water downstream has diminished.”

“Looking at groundwater, streamflow, and climate data from over half a century, it is clear that we are running into a water deficit,” said Gwendolyn Davies, USGS hydrologist and lead author of the report. “Groundwater is like a bank account, and when you take more out than you are putting in, at some point the account runs dry.”

Peter Stanton leads the Walker Basin Conservancy’s efforts to restore Walker Lake: “Like everyone else in the Walker Basin, we are very excited about this winter’s precipitation. However, as the report by the USGS makes clear, the current levels of groundwater pumping means that big snow years haven’t been enough to prevent declining groundwater tables.”

The Conservancy is hopeful the information provided in the report can help the agricultural community in the Walker Basin work toward long-term sustainable plans for water usage.

About Walker Basin Conservancy

The Walker Basin Conservancy leads the effort to restore and maintain Walker Lake while protecting agricultural, environmental, and recreational interests throughout the Walker Basin. Working with willing water sellers, the Conservancy protects in-stream flows to restore a vibrant fishery at Walker Lake. Through its land conservation program, the Conservancy has helped create the newest state park in Nevada, the Walker River State Recreation Area.

Contact: Peter Stanton, Executive Director, peter.stanton@walkerbasin.org


Walker River in Mason Valley 2022 ~ photo by Walker Basin Conservancy: