The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and a designee from the State of Utah are currently conducting a water-resources study of aquifers in White Pine County, Nevada, and adjacent areas in Nevada and Utah, in response to concerns about water availability and limited geohydrologic information relevant to ground-water flow in the region. Production of ground water in this region could impact water accumulations in three general types of aquifer materials: consolidated Paleozoic carbonate bedrock, and basin-filling Cenozoic volcanic rocks and unconsolidated Quaternary sediments. At present, the full impact of extracting ground water from any or all of these potential valley-graben reservoirs is not fully understood. A thorough understanding of intermontane basin stratigraphy, mostly concealed by the youngest unconsolidated deposits that blanket the surface in these valleys, is critical to an understanding of the regional hydrology in this area. This report presents a literature-based compilation of geologic data, especially thicknesses and lithologic characteristics, for Tertiary volcanic rocks that are presumably present in the subsurface of the intermontane valleys, which are prominent features of this area.
Two methods are used to estimate volcanic-rock thickness beneath valleys: (1) published geologic maps and accompanying descriptions of map units were used to compile the aggregate thicknesses of Tertiary stratigraphic units present in each mountain range within the study areas, and then interpolated to infer volcanic-rock thickness in the intervening valley, and (2) published isopach maps for individual out-flow ash-flow tuff were converted to digital spatial data and thickness was added together to produce a regional thickness map that aggregates thickness of the individual units. The two methods yield generally similar results and are similar to volcanic-rock thickness observed in a limited number of oil and gas exploration drill holes in the region, although local geologic complexity and the inherent assumptions in both methods allow only general comparison. These methods serve the needs of regional ground-water studies that require a three-dimensional depiction of the extent and thickness of subsurface geologic units. The compilation of geologic data from published maps and reports provides a general understanding of the distribution and thickness of tuffs that are presumably present in the subsurface of the intermontane valleys and are critical to understanding the ground-water hydrology of this area.