The Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Ruby Valley, Nevada, contains the largest area of perennial wetlands in northeastern Nevada and provides habitat to a large number of migratory and nesting waterfowl. The long-term preservation of the refuge depends on the availability of sufficient water to maintain optimal habitat conditions. In the Ruby Valley water budget, evapotranspiration (ET) from the refuge is one of the largest components of natural outflow. To help determine the amount of inflow needed to maintain wetland habitat, estimates of ET for May 1999 through October 2000 were made at major habitats throughout the refuge.
The Bowen-ratio method was used to estimate daily ET at four sites: over open water, in a moderate-to-dense cover of bulrush marsh, in a moderate cover of mixed phreatophytic shrubs, and in a desert-shrub upland. The eddy-correlation method was used to estimate daily ET for periods of 2 to 12 weeks at a meadow site and at four sites in a sparse-to-moderate cover of phreatophytic shrubs. Daily ET rates ranged from less than 0.010 inch per day at all of the sites to a maximum of 0.464 inch per day at the open-water site. Average daily ET rates estimated for open water and a bulrush marsh were about four to five times greater than in areas of mixed phreatophytic shrubs, where the depth to ground water is less than 5 feet. Based on the seasonal distribution of major habitats in the refuge and on winter and summer ET rates, an estimated total of about 89,000 acre-feet of water was consumed by ET during October 1999-September 2000 (2000 water year). Of this total, about 49,800 acre-feet was consumed by ET in areas of open water and bulrush marsh.