Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Death of a Lake

For hundreds of years Walker Lake has been a fresh water sanctuary for thousands of breeding and migrating birds, including over 1000 loons amid the deserts of Nevada. Within the past 100 years, Nevada's growing population has diverted more and more water from Walker Lake until now it is less than a quarter of its historical size. Not only does this mean that there is less habitat for the birds and fish that need Walker Lake to survive, but it also means an increase in the lake's salinity levels, degrading the remaining habitat until it is now unlivable for many species. This is most noticeable in the disappearance of Walker Lake's loon population. For the past 15 years the Walker Lake Working Group has put on an annual loon festival at Walker Lake over the summer. This year they were forced to cancel that festival due to a lack of loons. This is not only a bad thing for all of the people who enjoy going to see loons in Nevada, but it is also a bad sign for the entire ecosystem of the lake.

Loons are considered an excellent indicator of the overall health of lakes that they are found on. This is because loons are long-lived and at the top of the food chain, making them vary sensitive to pollutants in the water. Being a top predator, loons also signify that there are plenty of fish in a lake, which also signifies a healthy lake. The fact that so many loons used to visit Walker Lake but all have disappeared is ominous indeed. Ther is hope however. Nevada's 2 US senators co-sponsored a bill to give $70 million to the Nevada System of Higher Education to study the effects of diverting water from Walker Lake. While this is going on, the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute are just finishing their 2-year study determining the best way to supply water to Walker Lake and improve its water quality while sustaining the economies of the communities that depend on its water.

For more information about Walker Lake, please visit or call (775) 573-2581.

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