Walker Lake, Nevada, is a most rare and precious international environmental, recreational historical and cultural resource. It is one of only a few desert terminus lake that long supported one of the West’s most outstanding trout fisheries and thousands of migratory birds. But because the Walker River system’s water has been chronically over-appropriated for decades, the Lake no longer supports fish, the migratory birds that rely on them or related recreational activities.
With Walker Basin’s water appropriated at 130 percent to agricultural uses, Walker Lake has lost more than 50 percent of its surface area and 180 vertical feet of water over the last 140 years. This lack of water caused higher concentrations of salts that made the 13-mile long lake, in west-central Nevada, intolerable to native fish. Loss of the fish has devastated the local tourism-related economy and displaced thousands of birds on the Pacific Flyway that relied on this oasis in the desert to refuel on their way to and from Canadian nesting grounds.
A solution to Walker Lake’s century-long deprivation of adequate water inflows is within reach. Recent federal court rulings offer opportunities to build off the congressionally funded efforts seeking a comprehensive settlement that brings a final, sustainable resolution to competing claims for the limited Walker Basin water supply. Funding is needed to finalize an enforceable agreement for a lake level at Walker Lake that will restore this important habitat and provide opportunities to rebuild Mineral County’s economy. Project includes funding for legal and technical experts to evaluate plans to be submitted to the U.S. District Court for ratification under the decree governing water rights in the Walker River Basin.