About Us

The Lahontan Basin Area Office (LBAO) has jurisdiction over a large area of the Great Basin including most of the northern two thirds of Nevada with a small amount of overlap into California and Oregon. Much of this expanse was covered by ancient Lake Lahontan that existed during the last ice age, and whose surface area peaked nearly 13,000 years ago at 8,500 square miles.

The main area of LBAO activities is in the Carson, Truckee, and Humboldt river basins, where there are four operating Reclamation projects:

Newlands Project Washoe Project Truckee Storage Project Humboldt Project

The history of Reclamation in the Lahontan Basin dates back to the early 1900s. The Newlands Project (originally Truckee-Carson Project) was one of the original five projects authorized by the passage of the 1902 Reclamation Act. The development of the four Reclamation projects administered by LBAO has been accompanied by controversy concerning endangered species, Native American tribes and conversion of agricultural water rights to municipal/industrial uses. The project areas are generally in a high desert environment with the most reliable water source being Sierra Nevada snowfall along the California/Nevada border.


The Lahontan Basin Area Office plays a major role in providing water to over 500,000 people. We operate and maintain facilities on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (in the Truckee River basin) and along the Humboldt River, that store water for later release. We also operate and maintain facilities that deliver water to water right owners in the Fernley and Fallon areas of Nevada through the Newlands Project.

The office provides water for the needs of communities within the Truckee, Carson and Humboldt River basins on:

  • A wholesale basis (through the Humboldt, Washoe and Truckee-Storage Projects)
  • Directly to the end user (through the Newlands Project)
  • By managing, operating and maintaining facilities and resources, ensuring their sustainability into the future.
Baseline Activities

Lahontan Basin Area Office carries out this mission in its baseline (year-to-year) work and through various initiatives. The baseline work is:

  • Wholesale Water Management (Washoe, Truckee-Storage and Humboldt Projects)
    • Facility Operations: Work associated with operation of water storage and conveyance facilities including river and water supply forecasting, maintenance of a river operations model, administration of a stream gauging program and water releases in accordance with Federal Water Master directives. Work also involves water supply planning, release scheduling, and operations as specified by various operating agreements and memorandums of understanding.
    • Facility Maintenance: Work associated with maintaining water storage and conveyance facilities including regularly scheduled maintenance and security, regular reviews and response to those reviews, maintenance of emergency action plans, maintenance and security of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and safety of dams reporting.
  • End User Water Delivery (Newlands Project)
    • Contract Administration: Work associated with administration of the O&M contract with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. This includes oversight of O&M of project facilities, planning for future improvements, water conservation planning, financial reporting, etc.
    • Land Management: Work associated with the development and administration of agreements such as contracts, grants, easements, and rights-of-way for the use of land resources within the office's area of responsibility. Tasks involve working with the public, other governmental agencies, and the district on trespass resolutions, access issues, title research, land disposal actions, etc.
    • Administration of Newlands Project Operating Criteria and Procedures: Work associated with calculating monthly diversions from the Truckee River to Lahontan Reservoir, monitoring and evaluating irrigation of eligible Project lands annually, monitoring project demands, and adjusting storage targets on Lahontan Reservoir when necessary to meet changing demands. Work also includes monitoring project distribution efficiency and calculating the amount of 'incentive water' that is earned by the district if it exceeds target efficiencies.
    • Implementation of Court Ordered Judgments: Work associated with water-righted land classification determinations and calculations of recoupment of previously overdiverted water.
  • Overall Management and Support
    • Management Oversight: Activities associated with general office functions required to maintain the operation of the Area Office and associated facilities. Included are various functions not found under other baseline activities and involve such actions as representing Reclamation with outside entities by scheduling, conducting, and attending meetings; implementing public outreach programs; performing supervisory activities; providing budgetary, planning, and analytical services; and conducting various other clerical and administrative activities.
    • Cultural Environmental Activities: Work associated with National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance; conservation of endangered or threatened species; promotion of water and energy conservation and pollution prevention; control of invasive species; environmental stewardship; and the identification of pertinent hazardous material requirements.
    • Technical Support: Work associated with special requirements and studies that is necessary to water management and water delivery.

Major Issues

The major issues confronting the Lahontan Basin Area Office are primarily related to water rights on the Truckee River and operation of the Newlands Project. The water right issues are complicated and complex due to: Endangered cui-ui and the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake; Trust responsibilities of the Interior Secretary to both the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe; and our obligation to provide valid water rights for Newlands Project irrigators and the Lahontan Valley wetlands.

The specific issues are:

  • Aging Infrastructure – sustainability to serve valid project water rights
  • Urbanization of lands surrounding facilities – increased facility reliability, vigilance on encroachment issues
  • Protection of facilities from aquatic and invasive species – quagga, milfoil, tall whitetop, tamarisk

Major Initiatives

  • Truckee River Operating Agreement – Storage Contracts, Prosser Bypass
  • Truckee Canal XM Project
  • Carson Lake and Pasture Title Transfer
  • Invasive Pest Management Plan
  • Quagga Mussels

Visit our Facilities page for additional information



Last Updated: 7/29/20