Science in the Carson River Basin

Science Center Objects

The Carson River begins in the Sierra Nevada as the East Fork and West Fork of the Carson River. These two forks come together in the Carson Valley, not far from Carson City, Nev. The river then flows through the Carson River Basin until its terminus at the Carson Sink. The Carson RIver is a popular recreation spot with rafters, hikers, and fishermen.

Map of the Carson River Basin, Nevada

Carson River Basin, Nevada (Public domain.)

The Carson River Basin (hydrographic region 8) is about 3,900 square miles and extends about 150 miles from eastern California to pershing County, Nevada. The Carson River Basin includes the following hydrographic areas: Carson Desert, Churchill Valley, Dayton Valley, Eagle Valley, and Carson Valley. Major cities and towns with the Carson River Basin include Carson City (Nevada's capital), Dayton, Fallon, Gardnerville, and Minden.

USGS Nevada Water Science Center maintains more than 30 streamflow and lake-level gages on the Carson River.

AVAILABLE DATA

Real-Time Streamflow :: Daily Values :: Peak-Flow :: Water Quality

 

ACTIVE STUDIES IN THE CARSON RIVER BASIN

Evaluation of Groundwater Flow in the Middle Carson River Basin, Eagle, Dayton, and Churchill Valleys, Nevada

For additional information, contact Eric Morway

NVWSC has developed a numerical groundwater-flow model calibrated by a variety of historical observations related to the groundwater and surface-water systems along the Middle Carson River Basin (MCRB).  The model is designed, through appropriate selection of packages available with MODFLOW-NWT, to help water managers assess the possible future impacts of alternative management decisions made today in response to a growing need for water, driven in large part by residential and light industrial development.

Visit the project web page: Evaluation of Groundwater Flow in the Middle Carson River Basin, Eagle, Dayton, and Churchill Valleys, Nevada 
 

Water for the Seasons

For additional information, contact Eric Morway

Water for the Seasons (WftS) is a four year study funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. WtfS uses the Truckee-Carson River System (TCRS) as a pilot study to learn how to best link science with decision-making in snow-fed arid-land river systems. By working collaboratively with stakeholders, WftS aims to create a model for improving community climate resiliency, or ability to adapt to extreme climatic conditions.

Visit the project web page: Water for the Seasons
 

Measuring streamflow at Clear Creek, Nevada

Measuring streamflow at Clear Creek, Nevada. (Public domain.)

Monitoring Sediment and Water Quality in Clear Creek

For additional information, contact Jena Huntington

Clear Creek is a small alpine stream that begins near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada. The creek flows roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 50 and discharges to the Carson River near Carson City, Nevada. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is concerned about how historical and ongoing development in the Clear Creek drainage basin has/is affecting Clear Creek and its sediment-transport characteristics. The USGS Nevada Water Science Center (NVWSC), in cooperation with NDOT, has been studying streamflow, sediment, and water-quality data from the creek since 2004. Discharge, sediment and selected water-chemistry data were collected and evaluated by the NVWSC for three Clear Creek sampling sites as part of the baseline study from water years 2004-07, and an interim study from water years 2010-12.  The ongoing study (2013-16) continues the discharge, sediment, and selected water-chemistry data collection and evaluation.

Visit the project web page: Monitoring Sediment and Water Quality in Clear Creek

Image: Carson Valley

View of Carson Valley looking west to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. (Credit: Michael R. Rosen, USGS . Public domain.)

Occurrence and Mobility of Arsenic in Groundwater Used for Public Supply in Southern Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nevada

For additional information, contact Angela Paul

NVWSC, in collaboration with the Carson Water Subconservancy District, compiled available arsenic and related hydrogeochemical data from the Carson Valley aquifer system for the purpose of evaluating the sufficiency of available data for characterizing the vulnerability of public supply wells to arsenic contamination under increasing pumping stress.

Visit the project web page: Occurrence and Mobility of Arsenic in Groundwater Used for Public Supply in Southern Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nevada

Chemical Quality of Water Deliveries to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

A Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge

A Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge (Credit: Susan Sawyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

The ecosystems of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) are critical habitat for migratory birds. Increased irrigation efficiencies have reduced the amount of fresh water delivered to the wetlands, leading Congress to include provisions in the 1990 Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act to assist with wetland restoration and maintenance. The Secretary of the Interior has authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase water from willing sellers with rights to the Newlands Irrigation Project and also to acquire rights to treated wastewater effluent, but data are needed to evaluate if water rights acquisitions have improved conditions since irrigation drainage was the dominant water source. The USGS Nevada Water Science Center is implementing a monitoring program to measure the quality of water and bottom sediment at surface-water sites at SNWR.

Visit the project web page: Chemical Quality of Water Deliveries to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

 

Algal bloom along the East Fork Carson River, Nev.

Algal bloom along the East Fork Carson River, Nev.(Public domain.)

RECENTLY COMPLETED STUDIES IN THE CARSON RIVER BASIN

Not all completed studies are listed here. If you would like additional information about completed studies, please email the NVWSC at GS-W-NVpublic-info@ usgs.gov. 

Algal Growth along a Select Reach of the East Fork Carson River, West-Central Nevada

A study during the summers of 2010 and 2012 was conducted to determine if nutrient-enriched groundwater discharge contributed to excessive algal growth observed along a 5,800-foot reach of the East Fork Carson River in Carson Valley, west-central Nevada. Groundwater was found to be discharging to the river from both banks along a 405-foot sub-reach in the middle of the 5,800-foot study reach. High nitrate concentrations (2-3 milligrams per liter as nitrogen) were found in the groundwater along the right bank of the sub-reach. This sub-reach had the highest average algal biomass within the study reach. The data suggest that nutrient rich groundwater discharging to the river can create a favorable microenvironment for periphyton that assimilate available nutrients before the groundwater mixes with overlying river water.
 

Collecting water-quality samples at Lahontan Reservoir, Nevada

Collecting water-quality samples at Lahontan Reservoir, Nevada. (Public domain.)

Mercury in the Carson River

Data on concentrations of total mercury, total methyl mercury, and suspended sediment were collected at two USGS gaging stations, Carson River near Fort Churchill, NV (10312000), and Carson River below Lahontan Reservoir, NV (10312150). These data subsequently can be used to determine seasonal loads of total mercury and methylmercury in and from Lahontan Reservoir.