Science in the Humboldt River Basin

Science Center Objects

The Humboldt River is in north-central Nevada. The river is about 330 miles long and provides water for mostly agricultural purposes. One of the largest industries in Nevada is gold mining and the majority of those mines are in the Humboldt River Basin on the Carlin Trend. Gold mines in Nevada produce close to 80 percent of all the gold in the U.S. and are the 4th largest in the world. In 2010, Nevada mines produced 5,338,559 ounces of gold (Nevada Division of Minerals).

Map of the Humboldt River Basin, Nevada
Map of the Humboldt River Basin, Nevada. (Public domain.)

The Humboldt River Basin is the largest river basin that is entirely within the State covering more than 16,000 square miles.The Humboldt River Basin contains 34 hydrographic areas: Marys River, Area, Starr Valley, North Fork Area, Lamoille Valley, South Fork Area, Huntington Valley, Dixie Creek Area, Elko Segment, Susie Creek Area, Maggie Creek Area, Marys Creek Area, pine Valley, Crescent Valley, Carico Lake Valley, Upper Reese River Valley, Antelope Valley, Middle Reese River Valley, Lower Reese River Valley, Whirlwind Valley, Boulder Flat, Rock Creek Valley, Willow Creek, Clovers Area, pumpernickel Valley, Kelley Creek Valley, Little Humboldt Valley, Hardscrabble Area, paradise Valley, Winnemucca Segment, Grass Valley, Imlay Area, Lovelock Valley, and White plains.

USGS Nevada Water Science Center maintains more than 69 streamflow gages on the Humboldt River.

DATA

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

 

ACTIVE STUDIES IN THE HUMBOLDT RIVER BASIN

Evaluation of Streamflow Depletion Related to Groundwater Withdrawal, Humboldt River Basin

For more information, contact Phil Gardner

Drilling a monitoring well near Lovelock, Nevada
Drilling a monitoring well near Lovelock, Nevada. (Public domain.)

The Humboldt River Basin (HRB) is the only major river basin that is entirely within the State of Nevada. Precipitation supplies all the water that enters the basin; consequently, the variability in climate has significant impacts on the hydrology of the area. In addition, increased development which has been superimposed on natural climate fluctuations affects the water resources of the basin. Continued groundwater withdrawals within the Humboldt River Basin are likely contributing to streamflow depletion of the Humboldt River. The timing and magnitude of the effects of groundwater withdrawals on streamflow of the Humboldt River are not well understood. Although groundwater use in the Humboldt River Basin is primarily for agriculture, a substantial quantity of groundwater has been removed from consolidated rock units and basin fill as part of mining activity in the middle Humboldt River basin. The contribution to streamflow depletion by mine dewatering is currently thought to be relatively small, largely because much of the water was or continues to be returned to the river or to unconsolidated deposits near the river. However, many Humboldt River water rights holders contend that mine dewatering contributes significantly to streamflow depletion.

To evaluate the impacts of groundwater withdrawals on streamflow, three transient, regional-scale flow models will be developed and documented. The three models will represent the upper, middle, and lower Humboldt River Basins, respectively. The middle HRB model will be developed by the USGS; the upper HRB model is being developed separately and simultaneously by the Desert Research Institute (DRI); and the lower HRB model will be co-developed by the USGS and DRI. 

Visit the project web site: Evaluation of Streamflow Depletion Related to Groundwater Withdrawal, Humboldt River Basin

COMPLETED STUDIES IN THE HUMBOLDT 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. 

Water Resources of the Upper Humboldt River Basin

Any decisions to further develop the ground-water resources of the upper Humboldt River Basin will have to be balanced against the potential effects of such development on streamflow. County and state water-resource managers need information that will enable them to make informed decisions regarding future use and development of the water resources of the upper Humboldt River Basin. To address these needs and concerns, the NVWSC has adopted a phased approach for assessing the water resources of the upper Humboldt River basin in northeastern Nevada. Phase one was completed in 2007–08 and describes the hydrogeologic framework and groundwater conditions. Phase two took place in federal fiscal years 2009–11. The results from phase two were summarized in USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5077, which describes properties of basin-fill deposits, presents an overall water budget for the period 1971–2000, and describes interactions of groundwater and streamflow along the mainstem Humboldt River and its main tributaries.

Visit the project web page: Water Resources of the Upper Humboldt River Basin