The Slow Death of the Desert Water

This episode is an exploration of Anaho Island in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, where man’s interference with nature has had disastrous effects on pelicans, trout, and a rare primitive desert fish known as cui-ui.

The American white pelican population had experienced a decline in the ’60s, but gradually increased. The number of American white pelicans in Anaho Island is currently between 8,000 and 10,000. In the last few years, however, these have been threatened by an outbreak of West Nile Virus.

The Cui ui fish and The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
For the cui ui fish, its numbers of increased tremendously, from 100,000 in 1983; to 500,000 by 1991, and one million the following year. The Center for Biological Diversity stated the factors for the growth of cui ui spawning included the construction of the Stampede Dam and Marble Dam, and the creation of suitable habitat for the fish, and better water regulation and management.

The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, the state fish of Nevada, is still on the Endangered Species list. These days this fish occupies between 123 and 129 streams, compared to 400 and 600 in 1844.

Pyramid Lake is under the protection of the Paiute Indian tribe. According to the tribe’s Web site, the area has several fish hatcheries and spawning sites. In 2003 the United States Geological Science Center led a study on the effects of urbanization on the Truckee River to determine the presence and origin of contaminants (The river feeds into Pyramid Lake).