Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability

CWES researchers in the field
 Researchers in the field

The Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability is an expert resource used to address watershed science, planning, and restoration, providing the scientific information needed for understanding the behavior of watersheds important for planning and management policy decisions. . As aquatic environments and watersheds become increasingly stressed from impacts including global climate change, their management for long-term sustainability is fundamental to overall ecosystem health.

Our research teams have developed interdisciplinary research tools to advance the understanding of watershed processes and applying that information to other areas of interest, including watersheds outside of the western United States, and surrounding continents.

The resulting integration has encouraged research and teaching partnerships with institutions external to DRI. For example, we conduct research with the University of Nevada, Reno and U.C. Davis faculty on collaborative projects and teach courses at the University of Nevada, Reno and Sierra Nevada College.

Research Programs

The Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability has focused research programs in the Lake Tahoe and Walker Lake Basin watersheds. Knowledge gained from these research programs is applicable to other watersheds throughout the western U.S. including the Truckee, Carson, and Humboldt River watersheds. We have also conducted international watershed research projects in areas like the Nabogo and Bani River watersheds in Ghana and Mali, West Africa.

Lake Tahoe Watershed

This research is investigating the water clarity of Lake Tahoe's nearshore zone, an area of the lake that is most affected by onshore disturbances. The research and monitoring is designed to provide data on nearshore water clarity to examine factors that may contribute to variation and to evaluate and identify potential targets for future restoration or management projects.

Walker Lake Basin Watershed

Research in the Walker Basin has ranged from cloud seeding to geomorphic to hydrologic studies in the basin. The evaluation of additional surface-water flow from cloud seeding in the headwaters of the Walker Lake watershed provides information on the amount of runoff generated by cloud seeding. Studies of the Walker Lake basin provides a history of lake level fluctuations over the last several thousand years. CWES faculty have conducted an Environmental Impact Statement study for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on potential water rights purchases for Walker Lake.

In 2007, the exceptional collaborative efforts between two of Nevada’s major research institutions, DRI and the University of Nevada, Reno began a research program in the Walker Lake basin to provide information for restoration of Walker Lake and the Walker River, including the possible acquisition or leasing of water rights in the watershed.