The Amargosa Desert of southern Nevada, in the Basin and Range province, is hydraulically downgradient from Yucca Mountain, the potential site of a repository for high-level nuclear waste. Groundwater flow paths and flow rates beneath the Amargosa Desert are controlled in part by the total saturated thickness and the hydraulic properties of basin-fill alluvial sediments. Drillers' logs of water wells completed in alluvium were analyzed to help characterize the hydrogeologic framework underlying the Amargosa Desert. Fractions of coarse-grained sediments, calculated from each of these logs, were contoured using a universal-kriging routine to interpolate values. Results from a previous electrical sounding survey also were contoured, including the estimated depth to Paleozoic (?) basement rocks. The vertical electric sounding results were obtained from individual depth-to-resistivity profiles, from which the average resistivity of the total profile and the resistivity of the upper 75 m were calculated. The distribution and variations in average resistivity of the total depth correlated reasonably well with the distribution of variations in regional gravity. Patterns of contours of the resistivity of the upper 75 m of alluvium were similar to patterns of regional contours of the predominant cation (sodium) in ground water. Gravity lows correspond in some places to the presence of lacustrine, eolian, or marsh surface deposits, which may function as barriers to groundwater flow. Gravity lows also correspond to areas with thick basin-fill sediments, which was corroborated by depth-to-basement data determined from vertical electric soundings. Depths to Paleozoic (?) basement rocks may be as much as 1600 m based on data from the resistivity survey, which were corroborated in part by seismic-refraction survey data. Small variations exist in the percentage of the basin fill that is saturated. The unsaturated zone is always < 15% of the alluvial column. Analysis of depth-to-water and hydrochemical data, in conjunction with average resistivity data for the upper 75 m of alluvium, suggest a hydrologic barrier near the center of the Amargosa Desert. ?? 1991.
Additional publication details
Hydrogeologic inferences from drillers' logs and from gravity and resistivity surveys in the Amargosa Desert, southern Nevada