American Society of Civil Engineers

Assessing the Impacts of Institutional Changes in Water Rights on Hydrologic Conditions within a River Basin

by John C. Tracy, Ph.D., P.E., A.M.ASCE, (Associate Research Professor, Water Resources Center, Desert Research Institute, Raggio Pkwy., Reno, NV 89512)
Section: Water Resource System Modeling II, pp. 1-10, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: WRPMD’99: Preparing for the 21st Century
Abstract: Walker Lake is a terminal desert lake located in west-central Nevada. The only loss of water from the lake is due to evaporation, and over time, this results in salts and other non-reactive solutes being concentrated in the lake water. The primary source of inflow to Walker Lake is from the main channel of the Walker River, which is formed near Yerington Nevada by the convergence of its two main tributaries, the East and West Walker Rivers. The Walker River watershed covers an area of approximately 11,110 square km, and has its headwaters in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range in eastern California. The headwater flows are primarily due to snowmelt, which typically becomes significant in late spring, and tapers off in late summer. Thus, flow in the tributaries are normally low during January, February and March, increase during April and May, peak during June and July, and then gradually decline throughout the rest of the year. The headwater flows can vary significantly from year to year, with the lowest recorded headwater flow being 107 million m3 in 1977, and the highest yearly recorded headwater flow being 924 million m3 in 1983. On average, the yearly headwater flow is approximately 403 million m3.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Water rights
Water use
Irrigation water