The Walker Basin Restoration Program was established by Congress as part of Public Law 111-85 in October 2009. The Program's core purpose is to restore and maintain Walker Lake, a natural desert lake in Nevada at the terminus of the Walker River stream system of Nevada-California. Walker Lake is critical to recovery of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) and is an important stopover for common loons and other migratory waterfowl. However, many decades of depleted freshwater inflows have resulted in declines of Lake elevation and increases in Lake salinity which today threaten its complete ecological collapse.
In order to reverse Walker Lake's decline, NFWF is striving to find balance between the interests of landowners, water-user organizations, Indian Tribes, local governments, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. This conservation program seeks to increase instream flows to Walker Lake through a comprehensive basin-wide strategy that relies on voluntary water transactions and water management initiatives; community-based conservation and stewardship; and applied research and demonstration projects. This is being accomplished through an integrated mix of efforts based on the authority and funding provided by P.L. 111-85:
- A voluntary water rights acquisition program with willing sellers to reduce upstream water use with permanent increases in freshwater inflows to the Lake
- A three-year water leasing demonstration program developed and administered by the Walker River Irrigation District (WRID)
- Associated research, evaluation, modeling, and decision support activities at the University of Nevada-Reno and the Desert Research Institute
- A conservation and stewardship program focused on land stewardship, water conservation, alternative agriculture, watershed improvement, and establishment of a local non-profit to hold and exercise acquired water rights and to support other purposes of the Program.
From 2010-2012, the program acquired more than 34 cubic feet per second decree water rights, 3,100 acre feet of storage water rights, 5,800 acre feet of groundwater rights, and nearly 1,990 acres of land from willing sellers for approximately $24.6 million. We have initiated revegetation projects on almost 600 acres of land, and completed an initial donation of up to 800 acres to benefit the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area, with an additional 800 acres in the process of being transferred. In addition, we have expended nearly $5.5 million through grants for research, conservation and stewardship, and water forbearance agreements with local landowners, businesses, public entities, and private organizations in the Walker River Basin.
For more information, please visit our website at www.walkerbasin.org.