Trend analysis of ground-water levels and spring discharge in the Yucca Mountain Region, Nevada and California, 1960-2000

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2002-4178




Ground-water level and discharge data from 1960 to 2000 were analyzed for the Yucca Mountain region of southern Nevada and eastern California. Included were water-level data from 37 wells and a fissure (Devils Hole) and discharge data from five springs and from a flowing well. Data were evaluated for variability and for upward, downward, or cyclic trends with an emphasis on the period 1992-2000. Potential factors causing trends in water levels and discharge include ground-water withdrawal, infiltration of precipitation, earthquakes, evapotranspiration, barometric pressure, and earth tides. Statistically significant trends in ground-water levels or spring discharge from 1992 to 2000 were upward at 12 water-level sites and downward at 14 water-level sites and 1 spring-discharge site. In general, the magnitude of the change in water level from 1992 to 2000 was small (less than 2 feet), except where influenced by pumping or local effects such as possible equilibration from well construction or diversion of nearby surface water. Seasonal trends are superimposed on some of the long-term (1992-2000) trends in water levels and discharge. Factors causing seasonal trends include barometric pressure, evapotranspiration, and pumping. The magnitude of seasonal change in water level can vary from as little as 0.05 foot in regional aquifers to greater than 5 feet in monitoring wells near large supply wells in the Amargosa Farms area. Three major episodes of earthquake activity affected water levels in wells in the Yucca Mountain region between 1992 and 2000: the Landers/Little Skull Mountain, Northridge, and Hector Mine earthquakes. The Landers/Little Skull Mountain earthquakes, in June 1992, had the largest observed effect on water levels and on discharge during the study period. Monthly measurements of wells in the study network show that earthquakes affected water levels from a few tenths of a foot to 3.5 feet. In the Ash Meadows area, water levels remained relatively stable from 1992 to 2000, with some water levels showing small rising trends and some declining slightly. Possible reasons for water-level fluctuations at sites AD-6 (Tracer Well 3), AM-5 (Devils Hole Well), and AM-4 (Devils Hole) from 1960 to 2000 include climate change, local and regional ground-water withdrawals, and tectonic activity. In Jackass Flats, water levels from 1992 to 2000 in six wells adjacent to Fortymile Wash displayed either small upward trends or no upward or downward trend. Comparison of trends in water levels from 1983 to 2000 for these six wells shows good correlations between all wells and suggests a common mechanism controlling water levels in the area. Of the likely controls on the system--precipitation or pumping in Jackass Flats--precipitation appears to be the predominant factor controlling water levels near Fortymile Wash. Water levels in the heavily pumped Amargosa Farms area declined from about 10 to 30 feet from 1964 to 2000. Water-level declines accelerated beginning in the early 1990's as pumping rates increased substantially. Pumping in the Amargosa Farms area may affect water levels in some wells as far away as 5-14 miles. The water level at site DV-3 (Travertine Point 1 Well) and discharge at site DV-2 (Navel Spring), both in the Death Valley hydrographic area, had downward trends from 1992 to 2000. The cause of these downward trends may be linked to earthquakes, pumping in the Amargosa Farms area, or both.

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Trend analysis of ground-water levels and spring discharge in the Yucca Mountain Region, Nevada and California, 1960-2000
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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viii, 97 p. : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ; 28 cm.