Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Government Shutdown Threatened Water for Wild Horses

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As the consequences of the government shutdown continue to unfold, one interesting water-related headline popped up in northeastern Nevada – wild horses near Elko that were unable to get water.

The Elko Daily Free Press reported that Jackie Wiscombe, a contractor with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who hauled water for wild horses on BLM land, was told to stop.

“Due to the government shutdown, these animals are in dire circumstances with no water available,” she said in an Oct. 10 article.

Following that article, BLM Elko District Director Jill Silvey sent an employee to check on the horses and water conditions, according to a second article published Oct. 12.

Silvey said that hauling water to the horses was considered an essential service, not intended to be shut down, which meant Wiscombe could go back to work.

“I like working with the BLM office,” she said, “and they really do care about these wild horses.”

Winter Weather & Water Update 

Accuweather.com is the latest player to throw its hat in the ring with winter weather predictions, claiming a wet and snowy winter for much of the West.

“With the East as an exception, most ski resorts country-wide should not have a problem getting up and running this winter,” The prediction states. “This season’s precipitation may even bring drought relief to California, replenishing reservoirs and easing water shortages.”

In particular, the forecast calls for heavy precipitation between December and January.

We always take these long-term forecasts with a grain of salt, but its always nice to find an encouraging forecast.

A recent water quality story caught our eye out of Southern Nevada – mysterious brown foam found floating on Lake Mead.

According to an Associated Press Report, officials urged people to avoid the Overton Arm, a northern area of the lake, when several dozen carp were found dead in the foam, which extended for about eight miles from the mouth of the Virgin River to Echo Bay.

Water quality testing is underway, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife is investigating the fish deaths, according to the article, but the Southern Nevada Water Authority, monitoring water quality at two intakes, hasn’t found any problems.

The article quotes Southern Nevada Water Authority Spokesman Bronson Mack as saying no pollutants have been found at the intakes.

“It really is a massive body of water, and that’s one benefit from a drinking water perspective,” he told the Associated Press in regards to dilution, adding that water from the Overton Arm takes about a month to make it to the intakes.

In an www.8newsnow.com story, there was speculation of a virus killing the fish and an increase in water temperatures killing off algae to create the foam, meaning the two could be unrelated.

But in an editorial on lasvegascitylife.com, Peabody Award-winning reporter George Knapp raised some concerns.

“I would probably feel a bit better about drinking tap water from the lake if I hadn’t heard so many similar statements from our water officials in years gone by. SNWA and the Water District have spent millions over the years on touchy-feely TV commercials that assure all of us how great our water tastes and about all of the incredibly rigorous tests which are conducted thousands of times each month to ensure that every drop is perfectly safe,” Knapp wrote, referring to missed pollutants in Lake Mead like perchlorate that went undetected by testing for decades.

This will be an interesting story to follow, and one that drives home the importance of water quality monitoring.

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Image via: http://pyramidlakeflyfishing.com/

Image via: http://pyramidlakeflyfishing.com/

What’s living in Northern Nevada’s water is an important indicator of water quality for our area, and in some cases can affect water quality, so news on aquatic species is always of interest here at WETLAB.

First, the good news. As reported by Tom Knudson in the Sacramento Bee, the Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is recovering from near extinction.

“This is such an exciting story because this was such a unique fish,” said Mary Peacock, an associate professor of biology and genetics expert at the University of Nevada, Reno, in the Sacbee story. “You can see pictures from the early part of the 1900s with people holding really large trout out of Tahoe or Pyramid. We thought those fish were gone.”

The particular strain of Cutthrought Trout was overfished in the 1920s and 30s, but the construction of the Derby Dam on the Truckee River to divert water meant the fish could no longer reach their spawning grounds, dealing what was thought to be the final blow, according to the story.

But survivors were found in an unlikely place, Morrison Creek on the Nevada Utah boarder, and a slow, tenuous reintroduction was underway.

On the scarier side of aquatic wildlife news, the Reno Gazette Journal is reporting that the Nevada Department of Wildlife has confirmed that New Zealand mudsnails – an invasive species that can do serious damage to a lake or river, has been detected in the Truckee River.

The small snail can be the size of a grain of sand or up to an eighth of an inch, but can out-compete native species and wreak havoc on a stream’s ecosystem, according to the article.

Looking upstream to Tahoe and other lakes that feed the Truckee River, the specter of invasive species may not be as ominous as once thought, however.

An in-depth review of national scientific studies indicates that quagga and zebra mussels, long thought to pose a significant risk to Tahoe, Donner and other area lakes, may not be able to survive in the calcium-poor bodies of water, according to “the Saga of the Quagga” by David Bunker, published in Moonshine Ink.

This recent revelation has put mandatory, paid boat inspections on Donner Lake on hold, according to the article, while the science is reviewed.

These are all important issues for the Northern Nevada region’s water quality, and will all be important to keep an eye on as they continue to develop.