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The USGS Integrated Water Availability Assessments (IWAAs) are multidisciplinary, stakeholder driven, scientific assessments and predictions of water demand for human and ecological needs. 

Diagram showing the connection between water availability, water quality, saline lakes habitats, and bird usage
A diagram showing the connection between water availability, water quality, saline lake habitats, and bird usage. 

Our Goal

IWAAs assessments identify factors that limit water availability and are designed to provide information to meet the goals of the SECURE Water Act. Regional IWAAs work is currently underway in the Delaware and Upper Colorado River Basin, Illinois River Basin, and Willamette River Basin

The 2022 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill - the appropriations bill that funds the USGS - established a regional IWAAs study program in the Great Basin of the American West. This started USGS efforts to create a science strategy to monitor and assess the hydrology of saline lakes in the Great Basin and the migratory birds and other wildlife dependent on those habitats.  

Scientists from across the USGS, with specialties in water availability including water quality, and landscape ecology, and avian biology, form the Saline Lakes Team. The Team’s goal is to develop a regional Science Strategy and Implementation Plan that can be used by anyone to guide data collection and assessment activities in relation to 20 identified saline lakes in the Great Basin. The Science Strategy does not prioritize competing water needs, nor will it recommend specific water management activities; instead, it identifies and prioritizes data collection and scientific investigations, and informs resource managers about the interplay between saline lake hydrology and ecology. The Strategy will strive to leverage data collection and assessment efforts by other agencies and groups managing or conserving the resources of saline lakes. This includes the use of data sharing methods that enhance scientific understanding of saline lake systems and coordination with the larger interested community. 

A map of the Great Basin with saline lakes labeled
A map of the Great Basin, including parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and California. The twenty saline lakes identified by USGS partners as priority ecosystems are labeled.

Study Area

Twenty saline lakes across California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah were identified by USGS partners as priority ecosystems. They include:  

  • California: Eagle Lake, Honey Lake, Mono Lake, Owens Lake  

  • Utah: The Great Salt Lake and Sevier Lake  

  • Nevada: Carson Lake, Carson Sink, Franklin Lake, Pyramid Lake, Ruby Lake, Walker Lake, Winnemucca Lake  

  • Oregon: Lake Abert, Harney Lake, Malheur Lake, Silver Lake, Summer Lake, the Warner Lakes  

  • California/Oregon: Goose Lake