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Precipitation and Runoff Simulations of the Carson Range and Pine Nut Mountains, and Updated Estimates of Ground-Water Inflow and the Ground-Water Budgets for Basin-Fill Aquifers of Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nevada, and Alpine County, California

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5205

Prepared in cooperation with Douglas County, Nevada
By:
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Abstract

Recent estimates of ground-water inflow to the basin-fill aquifers of Carson Valley, Nevada, and California, from the adjacent Carson Range and Pine Nut Mountains ranged from 22,000 to 40,000 acre-feet per year using water-yield and chloride-balance methods. In this study, watershed models were developed for watersheds with perennial streams and for watersheds with ephemeral streams in the Carson Range and Pine Nut Mountains to provide an independent estimate of ground-water inflow. This report documents the development and calibration of the watershed models, presents model results, compares the results with recent estimates of ground-water inflow to the basin-fill aquifers of Carson Valley, and presents updated estimates of the ground-water budget for basin-fill aquifers of Carson Valley. The model used for the study was the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System, a physically based, distributed-parameter model designed to simulate precipitation and snowmelt runoff as well as snowpack accumulation and snowmelt processes. Geographic Information System software was used to manage spatial data, characterize model drainages, and to develop Hydrologic Response Units. Models were developed for * Two watersheds with gaged perennial streams in the Carson Range and two watersheds with gaged perennial streams in the Pine Nut Mountains using measured daily mean runoff, * Ten watersheds with ungaged perennial streams using estimated daily mean runoff, * Ten watershed with ungaged ephemeral streams in the Carson Range, and * A large area of ephemeral runoff near the Pine Nut Mountains. Models developed for the gaged watersheds were used as index models to guide the calibration of models for ungaged watersheds. Model calibration was constrained by daily mean runoff for 4 gaged watersheds and for 10 ungaged watersheds in the Carson Range estimated in a previous study. The models were further constrained by annual precipitation volumes estimated in a previous study to provide estimates of ground-water inflow using similar water input. The calibration periods were water years 1990-2002 for watersheds in the Carson Range, and water years 1981-97 for watersheds in the Pine Nut Mountains. Daily mean values for water years 1990-2002 were then simulated using the calibrated watershed models in the Pine Nut Mountains. The daily mean values of precipitation, runoff, evapotranspiration, and ground-water inflow simulated from the watershed models were summed to provide annual mean rates and volumes for each year of the simulations, and mean annual rates and volumes computed for water years 1990-2002. Mean annual bias for the period of record for models of Daggett Creek and Fredericksburg Canyon watersheds, two gaged perennial watersheds in the Carson Range, was within 4 percent and relative errors were about 6 and 12 percent, respectively. Model fit was not as satisfactory for two gaged perennial watersheds, Pine Nut and Buckeye Creeks, in the Pine Nut Mountains. The Pine Nut Creek watershed model had a large negative mean annual bias and a relative error of -11 percent, underestimated runoff for all years but the wet years in the latter part of the record, but adequately simulated the bulk of the spring runoff most of the years. The Buckeye Creek watershed model overestimated mean annual runoff with a relative error of about -5 percent when water year 1994 was removed from the analysis because it had a poor record. The bias and error of the calibrated models were within generally accepted limits for watershed models, indicating the simulated rates and volumes of runoff and ground-water inflow were reasonable. The total mean annual ground-water inflow to Carson Valley computed using estimates simulated by the watershed models was 38,000 acre-feet, including ground-water inflow from Eagle Valley, recharge from precipitation on eolian sand and gravel deposits, and ground-water recharge from precipitation on the western alluvial fans. The estimate was in close agreement with that obtained from the chloride-balance method, 40,000 acre-feet, but was considerably greater than the estimate obtained from the water-yield method, 22,000 acre-feet. The similar estimates obtained from the watershed models and chloride-balance method, two relatively independent methods, provide more confidence that they represent a reasonably accurate volume of ground-water inflow to Carson Valley. However, the two estimates are not completely independent because they use similar distributions of mean annual precipitation. Annual ground-water recharge of the basin-fill aquifers in Carson Valley ranged from 51,000 to 54,000 acre-feet computed using estimates of ground-water inflow to Carson Valley simulated from the watershed models combined with previous estimates of other ground-water budget components. Estimates of mean annual ground-water discharge range from 44,000 to 47,000 acre-feet. The low range estimate for ground-water recharge, 51,000 acre-feet per year, is most similar to the high range estimate for ground-water discharge, 47,000 acre-feet per year. Thus, an average annual volume of about 50,000 acre-feet is a reasonable estimate for mean annual ground-water recharge to and discharge from the basin-fill aquifers in Carson Valley. The results of watershed models indicate that significant interannual variability in the volumes of ground-water inflow is caused by climate variations. During multi-year drought conditions, the watershed simulations indicate that ground-water recharge could be as much as 80 percent less than the mean annual volume of 50,000 acre-feet.

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Precipitation and Runoff Simulations of the Carson Range and Pine Nut Mountains, and Updated Estimates of Ground-Water Inflow and the Ground-Water Budgets for Basin-Fill Aquifers of Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nevada, and Alpine County, California
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2007-5205
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2007
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
Nevada Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 57 p.