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Water Budget and Salinity of Walker Lake, western Nevada

July 1, 1995

Walker Lake is one of the rare perennial, terminal lakes in the Great Basin of the western United States. The lake is the terminus for all surface- water and ground-water flow in the Walker River Basin Hydrographic Region that is not consumed by evaporation, sublimation, or transpiration. The concentration of dissolved solids (salts) in the lake-surface altitude depend primarily on the amounts of water entering and evaporation from the lake. Because Walker Lake is a terminal sink--it has no documented surface- or ground-water outflow--dissolved solids that enter it accumulate as the lake water evaporates. Declining lake levels, owing to natural and anthropogenic processes, have resulted in most Great Basin terminal lakes being too saline to support fish. In Nevada, the only terminal lakes that contain fish are Pyramid Lake, Ruby Lake, and Walker Lake. Dissolved-solids concentration in Walker Lake increased from about 2,500 milligrams per liter in 1882 to 13,300 milli- grams per liter in July 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey analysis), as the lake-surface altitude declined from about 4,080 to 3,944 feet above sea level. This dramatic increase in dissolved-solids concentration threatens the Walker Lake ecosystem and the fish that depend on this ecosystem.

Publication Year 1995
Title Water Budget and Salinity of Walker Lake, western Nevada
DOI 10.3133/fs11595
Authors James M. Thomas
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 115-95
Index ID fs11595
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse