In 1985, the State of Nevada entered into a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of the Interior to study and test the State's carbonate- rock aquifers. The studies were focused on southern Nevada and were intended to address the following concerns: Where is water potentially available in the aquifers?; How much water potentially can bewithdrawn from aquifers?; and What effects might result from development of the aquifers? The studies included basic-data collection, geologic mapping, geophysical and geochemical analyses, well drilling, and aquifer testing. The studies showed that the carbonate rocks are continuous and extensive enough to form regional aquifer systems only beneath thecentral third of the region. About 130,000 acre-feet per year of ground water flows through all the aquifers in this corridor (carbonate and noncarbonate), and about 77,000 acre-feet per year discharges directly from the carbonate-rock aquifers at regional springs in southern Nevada or at discharge areas in Death Valley, California. A larger volume of water -as much as 6 million acre-feet in the upper 100 feet alone-is stored in the rocks. Once depleted, however, that resource would be replenished by natural processes only very slowly. Ultimately, long-term development of the carbonate-rock aquifers would result in depletion of stored water, or in the capture of water that otherwise would discharge from the aquifers of southern Nevada and vicinity, or both. In manyplaces, development might extract water from both carbonate-rock and basin-fill aquifers. Possible effects of developing the carbonate-rock aquifers include declining water levels, decreasing springflow rates, drying up of some streams, playas, and meadows, and changing water quality. Specific impacts would depend upon the magnitude and length of development and site-specific conditions around the areas where the water is withdrawn. Confidence in predictions of the potential effects ofdevelopment of the carbonate-rock aquifers will remain limited until observations become available that document changes as the aquifers respond locally to long-term pumping stresses. However, if staged development were undertaken together with adequate monitoring, effects of continued or increased development could be estimated with progressively higher degrees of confidence.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Distribution of carbonate-rock aquifers and the potential for their development, southern Nevada and adjacent parts of California, Arizona, and Utah
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,