View of a groundwater dependent ecoystem at Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Ruby Lake Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge © Simon Williams/TNC

Stories in Nevada

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. 

Aerial photo of Soldier Meadows, a spring system, one of more than 25,000 of these GDE types found in Nevada.
Soldier Meadows Aerial photo of Soldier Meadows, a spring system, one of more than 25,000 of these GDE types found in Nevada. © David Page/Desert Research Institute

World Water Day is March 22

Celebrate by learning more about the world's groundwater and why it matters.

Learn More
A map of groundwater depended ecosystems in Nevada. Markers are at Soldier Meadows, Carson River at River Fork Ranch, and Crystal Spring at Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge.
Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems This map shows the number of GDE types in Nevada. The darker the color, the more groundwater dependent ecosystems are present. In the story map, you can explore the five general categories of iGDEs in the state. © Sarah Byer/TNC

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.


  • iGDEs Story Map

    The Indicators of Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems (iGDEs) database provides information about Nevada's groundwater resources and the ecosystems they support. Explore

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. 

Aerial photo of Baltazor Hot Springs, one of many hot springs that occur throughout Nevada.
Baltazor Hot Springs Aerial photo of Baltazor Hot Springs, one of many hot springs that occur throughout Nevada. © David Page/Desert Research Institute

Nevada's Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems

  • Green paw prints, wildlife icon


    of Nevada's 300+ endemic species rely on GDEs

  • Green cattails, icon


    acres of Nevada (3% of the state) is wetlands

  • Green marsh icon


    acres of habitat are supported by Nevada's rivers & streams

  • River icon


    springs are found in Nevada

Quote: Laurel Saito

Though it's not always visible, groundwater is essential for people and nature in Nevada. We must work together to protect and sustainably manage this precious hidden resource.

Nevada Water Strategy Director

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. 

Learn More about Nevada's Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems