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Rain Coming to Walker Lake

Date Posted: 
December 7, 2010
Publisher: 
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is developing a plan to seed the clouds over the Walker River, in the hopes of bringing more rain to the region and reducing the salinity of Walker Lake. Walker Lake, a large, natural, freshwater lake located in the Great Basin of Nevada, has been shrinking since the 1880s as irrigation diversions have reduced the streamflow of the Walker River, the main source of water flowing into the lake. According to a 2007 USGS report, lake level has dropped 150 feet since 1882. The plummeting water levels in Walker Lake have had profound impacts on the lake ecosystem, increasing the salinity of the lake to levels intolerable to several types of fish and invertebrates.

According to plan, the cloud-seeding project, which would cost $1.36 million, would employ six on-the-ground cloud seeding instruments during the winter months, and would run through 2015. It will take 2 million extra acre feet of freshwater to dilute the total dissolved solids (a measurement of salinity) in Walker Lake to only three times the original amount—currently the lake has 18,000 mg/liter of dissolved solids, but in 1882 dissolved solids were only 2,500 mg/liter. It is unclear if the cloud-seeding project will be successful, but the Bureau of Reclamation plans to monitor Walker River streamflow to evaluate the outcome.