Groundwater: Nevada's Hidden Resource
A story map and database show the locations and importance of the state's groundwater.
With an average of less than 10 inches of rainfall each year, Nevada is the nation’s driest state. However, underground water supplements rainfall to enable incredible biodiversity in Nevada. The Silver State has the 11th highest biodiversity in the U.S., with more than 300 species found nowhere else in the world.
World Water Day is March 22, and 2022 is the year of groundwater. Here in Nevada and around the world, groundwater is a precious resource, as it supports our ecosystems and communities. Most of the world's liquid freshwater is groundwater, which supports clean drinking water, farming, ecosystems, industries and more, and is essential for helping us adapt to climate change. Celebrate World Water Day with us by learning more about Nevada's groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
The precious underground water resources in The Silver State are increasingly being tapped, with about half of Nevada’s 256 administrative groundwater basins being over-appropriated. Because surface water is scarce, many of Nevada’s native species depend on groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs), which are natural communities that rely on groundwater for all or part of their water needs. GDEs provide important resources for plants and animals and are critical sources of drinking water, recreation and economic benefit for Nevada’s people.
iGDE Story Map and Database
TNC scientists developed the Indicators of Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems (iGDEs) database, a publicly available electronic resource that reveals critical sources of water hidden below the soil surface in Nevada. The mobile-friendly database is a visual and spatial illustration of the state’s GDEs, their various types, their distinctive features, and species dependent on them. Users can click to see examples of GDEs and species, learn definitions of various terms and more. Presented through an interactive, user-friendly story map, the database is intended to provide Nevadans with in-depth, relevant, easy-to-understand facts about where the state’s groundwater dependent ecosystems are located and why they’re important.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife hosts the database on its website as part of a mutually beneficial partnership that we hope will engage individuals, state agencies and private entities in using the information to improve land- and water-management practices. Inspired by California’s iGDE database, the Nevada iGDE database drew upon the best available data from TNC in Nevada, as well as the LANDFIRE Program, the Desert Research Institute in Reno, the NNHP and the Spring Stewardship Institute's Springs Online resource. This database is the first of its kind to contain extensive Nevada GDE information from all these sources. Data are current as of June 2019.
Nevada's Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems
of Nevada's 300+ endemic species rely on GDEs
acres of Nevada (3% of the state) is wetlands
acres of habitat are supported by Nevada's rivers & streams
springs are found in Nevada
Next Steps in Groundwater Science
TNC scientists are currently completing an assessment of stressors and threats to Nevada's GDEs, with the ultimate goal of identifying ways to protect them. A report on stressors and threats will be available in spring 2022.