Claude Dukes Collection of Federal Water Master's Office Records

Identifier: 84-11

Scope and Contents

The Claude Dukes Collection consists, primarily, of early Water Master records of Harry C. Dukes, Claude Dukes’ father, and date from 1926-1946. Included are complete records of claims for expenses, with accompanying receipts, for the operation of the Water Master’s office from 1926-1943. The contents pertain to the office of Federal Water Master and include no personal papers.

Other records include assessment receipt notices, financial accounts, office operational files, correspondence, water data, reports, subject files regarding conferences, meetings and associations of interest to the Water Master, printed material, drawings and maps. These records span the terms of Harry C. Dukes, Walter L. Bell, and Claude Dukes, and provide statistics and information for the Truckee and Carson River Basins.

Water data constitutes the major portion of the material in the collection. Statistics for the waters of the Truckee and Carson River Basins are included as well as weather information for the area. Maps and diagrams give water measurements, indicate land and water use, and show water allocated and lands irrigated for both river systems. Data dates from the earliest water rights in 1859 to water information for the 1980s.

Scrapbooks, compiled by Claude and Lynne Dukes contain clippings from several newspapers from 1924-1982. The clippings pertain to water issues in Nevada and nearby California.


  • 1849-1982


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Administrative History

Harrison Claude Dukes was born on March 3, 1914 in Wilson, Nevada. He attended the University of Nevada, Reno and received a B.A. in English. In 1926, his father, Harry C. Dukes was appointed the first Water Master for the Truckee River. Claude and his brother often accompanied their father in the field becoming well acquainted with the duties of the Water Master.

Walter L. Bell accepted the appointment of Water Master following the death of Harry Dukes in 1946. At that time he offered the job of office manager and assistant Water Master to Claude Dukes who gave up a career as a professional pilot to serve under Bell. In 1949, Walter Bell was named Water Master for the Carson River in addition to his Truckee River appointment. When he died in 1959, Claude Dukes was appointed Water Master for the Truckee River and the Carson River by two different judges. He remained in this dual post until his death on September 9, 1984. Since then, the dual posts have been occupied by one individual.

The office of Water Master was created by the federal courts in 1919 to hear testimony in the U.S. vs. Orr Ditch Water Company lawsuit. Judge George F. Talbot served initially as special master until Harry C. Dukes was appointed first Water Master in 1926. With the settlement of the Orr Ditch suit in 1944, the Water Master was charged with regulating the waters of the Truckee River as defined by the Orr Ditch Decree. In 1949, a similar position was created to administer the provisions of a Temporary Restraining Order on the Carson River.

The Water Master is an officer of the United States District Court for the State of Nevada. Funds to support the position do not come from the federal government but from the water users and litigants in the court actions on both river systems. The Federal Water Master maintains an office in Reno, Nevada, and administers it as an independent, autonomous fiscal agent, subject to the approval of the court which also can terminate the position.


20.75 Linear Feet (20 boxes, 4 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Collection contains papers from the Federal Water Master's Office, Reno, Nevada, 1926-1982. Included are office operational records, correspondence; also water data, reports, maps and printed material relating to water in the Truckee and Carson River Basins, Nevada and California.


Arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Water Master Office Accounts

Series 2: Water Master Office Files

Series 3: Associations, Conferences, Committees

Series 4: Water Data

Series 5: Reports and Surveys

Series 6: Printed Material

Series 7: Drawings and Maps

Series 8: Newspaper Scrapbooks

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Water Master, Garry D. Stone, in 1984, and by Lynne Dukes, Claude Dukes’ widow.

Related Materials

A taped interview of Claude Dukes discussing his role as Water Master for the Carson River was conducted by the University of Nevada Oral History Office and the transcript is available in the Special Collections Department of the University Library, Reno (call number HD 1739 .N3 D8).

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1988-33.

Processing Information

The material was received in original binders and envelopes, some with headings supplied by Harry C. Dukes and Claude Dukes. Original order has been maintained with a few exceptions. In most instances, material from a notebook or envelope has been transferred to an archival folder and the original heading retained.

A large collection of printed material was included with the Dukes collection. Newspapers, magazines, government documents, advertisements for office equipment and Washoe County tax lists were discarded or transferred to other collections in the UNR Library. Retained in the collection are annotated material; early twentieth-century articles pertaining to irrigation, weather, snow surveying, and flood control; and early equipment catalogs for irrigation and hydrologic instruments.



Guide to Claude Dukes' Collection of Federal Water Master's Office Records
Lenore M. Kosso
June 1985
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)