Located in a rural area approximately 35 miles northeast of the city of Reno, NV, the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation (PLIR) contains 742 square miles of land. The Reservation is home to Pyramid Lake, a large desert terminal lake consisting of a surface area of approximately 188 square miles. Pyramid Lake's primary water source is the lower Truckee River, which drains from a large watershed extending southwesterly to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and including Lake Tahoe. The Truckee River and Pyramid Lake are not only important natural resources to the Tribe, but are integral to the Tribe's cultural and economic livelihood.
Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River are affected by point and non-point sources (NPS) of pollution. Tertiary treated effluent from the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, urban storm runoff, agricultural return flows, septic tanks, mining activities (present and historic) have all impacted surface waters on the lower Truckee River and Pyramid Lake. Upstream diversions altering flow, water pollution and subsequent low flows have affected the recovery efforts of two Pyramid Lake fish species important to the Tribe's culture and traditional way of life. The Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi) and cui-ui (Chasmistes cujus) are listed as threatened and endangered, respectively, by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Establishing Tribal Water Quality Standards and long-term Physical Habitat/Bioassessment and water quality monitoring has played a key roll in protecting the Reservation's surface waters from further degradation.
The Tribe's Water Quality Monitoring Program began in 1981 and has since expanded to include 2 sites on Pyramid Lake, 13 perennial streams, 5 sites along the lower Truckee River and 5 NPS sites within the Reservation. Field measurements are collected at each site including temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity, salinity, turbidity and total dissolved solids. Water samples are also collected and analyzed for dissolved reactive phosphorus, total phosphorus, nitrates + nitrites and ammonia-nitrogen, using protocols outlined in the Tribe's Quality Assurance Project Plan. All nutrient samples are analyzed at the Tribe's Water Quality Laboratory in Sutcliffe, NV.
Water Quality Standards
On January 30, 2007, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe received Treatment in the Similar Manner as a State (TAS) status pursuant to Sections 303 & 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Program Authority to conduct Water Quality Standards (WQS) and 401 Certification within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation.Water quality standards are important because they help monitor and asses water quality problems originating from polluted discharges or surface runoff carrying sediment, nutrients, chemicals, or biological pathogens. TheTribe and the EPA approved and adopted WQS specific to the lower Truckee River and Pyramid Lake in 2008. These standards are contained within the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Water Quality Control Plan.
Beginning in 2014, the Tribe began reviewing its WQS to analyze the effectiveness of each water quality criteria and modified several numeric criteria. The Program and its consultants found changes necessary for bacteria, lake clarity and nutrients (phosphorus and ammonia). Once the revised standards were drafted, the Program began an extensive public outreach process known as a Triennial Review, holding various workshops and meetings on the Reservation, Fernley, Reno, Sparks and the town of Truckee. Once the Program received input from the stakeholders within the Truckee River Watershed, the standards were finalized and submitted for the EPA’s review. After a year-long journey, the EPA approved the revisions to the Tribe’s WQS for the lower Truckee River and Pyramid Lake, contained within the Tribe’s Water Quality Control Plan on December 23, 2015.