News Release

Scientists and American Indian tribal members talk climate change realities at AAAS

Water for the Seasons and Native Waters on Arid Lands projects highlighted  

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Desert Research Institute

RENO - Despite an above average snowpack and several months of wet weather, drought and changing climate conditions continue to plague farmers and ranchers across Nevada and other western states.

For American Indian communities in Northern Nevada, the consequences of a changing ecosystem are severe and will impact generations to come, according to new research and outreach presented today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Led by Maureen McCarthy, Ph.D., Tahoe and Great Basin Research Director at the University of Nevada, Reno, a unique symposium titled"Climate, Water,and the American Indian Farmer" explored the impacts of climate change, Indian land tenure and water rights, and changes in land use on American Indian communities dependent on farming, ranching, and sustaining cultural and natural resources.

"American Indian tribes currently possess some of the most senior water rights available," McCarthy explained. "Yet extreme, ongoing droughts in our region combined with changes in winter precipitation timing and form are complicating the allocation and use of water in the West and stimulating Tribes, States, and the Federal Government to negotiate equitable and sustainable water right settlements to ensure traditional and production agricultural practices are available to future generations.

"These issues are complex and transcend ecological and sociopolitical boundaries. Knowledge generated and shared through this program will build capacity among tribal and non-tribal organizations to respond to a changing climate."

The AAAS symposium highlighted work underway on two significant research and public outreach projects led by the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and other institutions.

Water for the Seasons Project Background:

The "Water for the Seasons" project focuses on the Truckee-Carson River System as a model for snow-fed arid-land river systems across the American West. Researchers are integrating science and water policy research with extensive community outreach to identify the expected impacts of climate change and solutions for protecting valuable water resources throughout Northern Nevada.

Greg Pohll, Ph.D., a DRI research professor of hydrology and hydrogeology, is co-leading the climate and water supplies modeling portion of the project. Pohll, who has studied and modeled snow-fed arid-land river systems for nearly 20 years, is focusing on the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe Basin system with three other DRI surface and groundwater experts. The team is developing state-of-the-art computer models to predict how rivers and groundwater in the West are responding to prolonged droughts.

For more information about "Water for the Seasons" visit -

Native Waters for Arid Lands Project Background:

The "The Native Waters on Arid Lands" project is working directly with tribal members to identify challenges to agriculture from diverse and competing demands for water. Researchers and Extension experts, in partnership with Native American scholars and community leaders from over a dozen tribes in the American Southwest, are integrating western science and traditional knowledge to analyze how warming temperatures and reduced water supplies impact crop and livestock production and fish, wildlife, and ecological abundance. The five-year program brings together fculty and students from University of Nevada, Reno, Desert Resarch Institute, University of Arizona and Utah State University and the First Americans (1994) Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON), U.S. Geological Survey; and Ohio University.

Beverly Ramsey, Ph.D., executive director of the DRI's Earth and Ecosystem Sciences division, is leading the important traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) research portion of the multi-year project. DRI faculty are also providing advanced analytics and database stewardship; as well as guiding the integration of water rights policy research, lead by Derek Kauneckis, Ph.D., an DRI affiliate faculty member and associate professor with Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, with TEK results and paleoecological records to identify potential enhancements in community resilience.

For more information about "Native Waters on Arid Lands" visit -

AAAS Annual Meeting news briefing details:

Climate, Water, and the American Indian Farmer
Saturday, February 13, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM EST
Wilson A (Marriott Wardman Park)


  • Maureen McCarthy, University of Nevada, Reno


  • Maureen McCarthy, University of Nevada, Reno


  • Loretta Singletary, University of Nevada, Reno 
    Indian Land Tenure and Water Rights 
  • Karletta Chief, University of Arizona 
    Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change
  • Derek Kauneckis, Ohio University 
    Water Supplies, Human Decisions, and Policy Institutions 


Photos and video available upon request.

Media Contacts:

Justin Broglio
Communications Officer
Desert Research Institute

Mike Wolterbeek
Communications Officer
University of Nevada, Reno/108
Reno, NV 89557

About the University of Nevada, Reno: Founded in 1874 as Nevada's land-grant university, the University of Nevada, Reno ranks in the top tier of best national universities. With nearly 19,000 students, the University is driven to contribute a culture of student success, world-improving research and outreach that enhances communities and business. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University is home to the state's medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and home to one of the largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit

About the Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research campus of the Nevada System of Higher Education, strives to be the world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people's lives throughout Nevada and the world. For more information, visit

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