Little Washoe Lake water levels are now recovering after the Nevada Department of Wildlife worked with partners to repair a water diversion ditch that feeds the Washoe Lakes system, which includes Big and Little Washoe lakes, as well as the Scripps Wildlife Management Area that lies between. Little Washoe and portions of the Scripps WMA dried up during summer 2021 due to the lack of precipitation and associated stream flows caused by consecutive drought years. “This is the first time many locals could ever recall Little Washoe Lake levels dropping to this extreme,” said NDOW Habitat Division Administrator Alan Jenne. “We quickly realized a need to investigate to find the root of the issue, possible solutions and evaluate options to make the system more resilient.” NDOW called a field trip with the Nevada Division of Water Resources, the Nevada Division of State Parks, and the U.S. Federal Water Master in July to evaluate the situation. Despite finding no anomalies or immediate solutions for summer stream flows, the field trip and discussions did reveal an irrigation diversion ditch that washed out during the 2017 floods that could provide some long-term relief for the Washoe lake system if repaired. NDOW began coordinating with the Washoe Lake Reservoir and Galena Creek Ditch Co., and Nevada Conservation Districts Program to discuss options to repair the ditch. It was found that while the value and use of the water rights that flow through the diversion ditch were still there, the funds necessary for a repair were not. NDOW funded the repair if the ditch company would oversee the project and coordinate with private landowners and the Conservation District Program to hire someone to make the repairs. Quilici Construction Co., given its extensive experience with these scenarios, was soon hired and the repairs were finalized Nov. 5. Since recovery of the water levels after the winter of 2016-17, NDOW biologists have placed a considerable amount of effort into building viable fisheries in Little and Big Washoe lakes. Channel Catfish, Bullhead Catfish, White Crappie, Largemouth, and White Bass were all reintroduced into the lakes. Now that Little Washoe Lake is refilling and a long-term solution has been found to avoid this situation in the future, the effort to restore that fishery in a similar fashion will begin again. The water rights that flow through the ditch have a fall/winter delivery season. NDOW hopes that with these waters restored to the system, snowmelt and spring flows will have a better starting base water level so Nevadans will never again have to witness Little Washoe going dry. The Nevada Department of Wildlife protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org.
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