Kings Pool at Ash Meadow National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada is a source of precious water in the desert. Photo: Cyndi Souza, USFWS.
Podcast: Devils Hole pupfish. This iridescent blue inch-long fish makes its home in the 93 degree waters of Devils Hole, which is located within Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near the California/Nevada border. The Devils Hole pupfish is found nowhere else in the world.
In southwestern Nevada, the nation’s need for renewable energy and a national wildlife refuge’s need to fulfill its mission is converging with climate change.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is an anomaly: an oasis of spring-fed wetlands in the Mojave Desert. Even more unusual are the plants and animals that have evolved there. Scientists have found 26 species that they believe exist only on or near the refuge.
When the Bureau of Land Management notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in early 2009 about a right-of-way application to install a solar array on BLM land 10 miles from the refuge, FWS and National Park Service staff considered how the project might affect the refuge and its resources. Most concerning was a proposed wet cooling system that would consume 4,500 acre-feet of water per year – water to be obtained via pumping from a deep-water wells. (An acre-foot is the amount of water required to fill a one-acre area to the depth of one foot.)
Concerns about climate change effects on regional water supplies added to the Service’s sense of urgency.