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Contemporary Nevada

Water & Pyramid Lake

The Newlands Reclamation project of the early 1900s diverted over 50% of the Truckee River water from Pyramid Lake to farms in the Lahontan Valley around Fallon.  This early-day water diversion was not discussed with the Native Americans living around Pyramid Lake where the diverted water formerly flowed.

The Pyramid Lake Paiutes were faced with drastic lowering of Pyramid Lake from the historic 19th century lake levels.  Pyramid Lake's sister lake, Winnemucca Lake, dried up completely as a result of this water diversion.  Perhaps most importantly, however, was the loss of the giant Lahontan cutthroat trout, weighing over 30 pounds.  Also affecting Native American fishermen was the potential loss of the cui-ui lake sucker.  Not only did the Native Americans eat these fish, they also sold the trout to restaurants and townspeople in Nevada and even California.  The fish were both a food source and a way to earn cash.  Euro-American fisherman also prized the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The Pyramid Lake Paiutes had to go to court to get a portion of the water back for Pyramid Lake that had been diverted for the farmers around Fallon.  They needed the water to save Pyramid Lake and the fish.  Other Nevada tribes have water rights issues with the government and other entities.  Nevada is an arid state and water is a precious and often scarce resource.

Photo Credit:
Nevada Historical Society