Most water-resource investigations in semiarid basins of the Great Basin in western North America conclude that ground-water recharge from direct precipitation on the valley floor is negligible. However, many of these basins contain large areas covered by unvegetated, active sand dunes that may act as conduits for ground-water recharge. The potential for this previously undocumented recharge was investigated in an area covered by sand dunes in Desert Valley, northwestern Nevada, using a deep percolation model. The model uses daily measurements of precipitation and temperature to determine energy and moisture balance, from which estimates of long-term mean annual recharge are made. For the study area, the model calculated a mean annual recharge rate of as much as 1.3 inches per year, or 17 percent of the long-term mean precipitation. Model simulations also indicate that recharge would be virtually zero if the study area were covered by vegetation rather than dunes.
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Ground-water recharge through active sand dunes in northwestern Nevada