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Precipitation zones of west-central Nevada

January 1, 2007

Whether Nevada can sustain its fast rate of growth depends in part on accurately quantifying the amount of water that is available, including precipitation. The Precipitation-Zone Method (PZM) is a way of estimating mean annual precipitation at any point. The PZM was developed using data from west-central Nevada and northeastern California, but preliminary analysis indicates it can be applied to the entire state. Patterns in the spatial distribution of precipitation were identified by mapping station locations and plotting 1971-2000 precipitation normals versus station elevation. Precipitation zones are large areas where precipitation is linearly related to elevation. Four precipitation zones with different linear relations were delineated; these zones cover much of west-central Nevada. Regression equations with adjusted R2 values of 0.89 to 0.95 were developed for each zone. All regression equations estimate similar precipitation rates at 4,000 feet, but the slopes of the regression equations become progressively shallower to the south. A geographic information system, 30-meter digital elevation model, and the regression equations were used to estimate the distribution and volumes of precipitation in each zone and in hydrographic areas of the Walker River Basin. Comparison between the PZM and Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) indicate PRISM estimates are linearly related to elevation at low elevations in each zone, but PRISM estimates become non-linear at high elevations and are up to 2.5 times greater than the normals. However, PRISM under-estimates more than it over-estimates precipitation compared to the PZM. The PZM estimated the same or larger volumes of precipitation compared to PRISM in three of the zones, and the larger volumes mostly were from areas that receive greater than 15 inches/year of precipitation. Additional work is needed to accurately estimate mean annual precipitation throughout Nevada.

Publication Year 2007
Title Precipitation zones of west-central Nevada
Authors Thomas J. Lopes, Rose L. Medina
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the Nevada Water Resources Association
Index ID 70046646
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse