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

Nevada's Hidden Water

A new 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 state has the 11th highest biodiversity in the U.S. with more than 350 species found nowhere else in the world.

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, most of Nevada’s native species live in 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.

TNC recently released 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 new, 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.

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems This map shows the number of unique GDE categories in each hydrographic area. 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

We envision this story map being used by property owners, school teachers and any resident with interest in the state’s water supply. A more detailed database is also available for resource managers, scientists and researchers.

Nevada Water Program Director

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 new database is the first of its kind to contain extensive Nevada GDE information from all these sources. Data are current as of June 2019.

  • Wetland at 7J Ranch in Nevada

    iGDEs Story Map

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