Evaluation of Groundwater and Solute Transport in the Fernley – Wadsworth Area
The Truckee River Water Quality Agreement of 1997 settled longstanding litigation between the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), State of Nevada and the Cities of Reno and Sparks (“Cities”), respectively. A key element of this agreement was a commitment by the Cities and the Department of the Interior to spend up to $24 million to purchase Truckee River water rights from downstream of Sparks. Water would subsequently be sorted in upper basin reservoirs for release under low-flow conditions to help the Cities meet water quality objectives, particularly those related to nutrients and dissolved oxygen. It was further anticipated that a reduction in irrigated agriculture within the Fernley area would result in an associated decrease in high total dissolved solids (TDS) groundwater discharge to the river, helping to mitigate salinity loading to Pyramid Lake.
A hydrogeologic investigation was undertaken to characterize the groundwater system in the Fernley Basin and to determine the TDS loading to the Truckee River between the towns of Wadsworth and Nixon. A groundwater flow and transport model was constructed to integrate all of the available data and to predict the potential loadings under various management alternatives.