Analysis of ground-water levels and associated trends in Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, 1951-2003

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5175




Almost 4,000 water-level measurements in 216 wells in the Yucca Flat area from 1951 to 2003 were quality assured and analyzed. An interpretative database was developed that describes water-level conditions for each water level measured in Yucca Flat. Multiple attributes were assigned to each water-level measurement in the database to describe the hydrologic conditions at the time of measurement. General quality, temporal variability, regional significance, and hydrologic conditions are attributed for each water-level measurement. The database also includes narratives that discuss the water-level history of each well. Water levels in 34 wells were analyzed for variability and for statistically significant trends. An attempt was made to identify the cause of many of the water-level fluctuations or trends. Potential causes include equilibration following well construction or development, pumping in the monitoring well, withdrawals from a nearby supply well, recharge from precipitation, earthquakes, underground nuclear tests, land subsidence, barometric pressure, and Earth tides. Some of the naturally occurring fluctuations in water levels may result from variations in recharge. The magnitude of the overall water-level change for these fluctuations generally is less than 2 feet. Long-term steady-state hydrographs for most of the wells open to carbonate rock have a very similar pattern. Carbonate-rock wells without the characteristic pattern are directly west of the Yucca and Topgallant faults in the southwestern part of Yucca Flat. Long-term steady-state hydrographs from wells open to volcanic tuffs or the Eleana confining unit have a distinctly different pattern from the general water-level pattern of the carbonate-rock aquifers. Anthropogenic water-level fluctuations were caused primarily by water withdrawals and nuclear testing. Nuclear tests affected water levels in many wells. Trends in these wells are attributed to test-cavity infilling or the effects of depressurization following nuclear testing. The magnitude of the overall water-level change for wells with anthropogenic trends can be large, ranging from several feet to hundreds of feet. Vertical water-level differences at 27 sites in Yucca Flat with multiple open intervals were compared. Large vertical differences were noted in volcanic rocks and in boreholes where water levels were affected by nuclear tests. Small vertical differences were noted within the carbonate-rock and valley-fill aquifers. Vertical hydraulic gradients generally are downward in volcanic rocks and from pre-Tertiary clastic rocks toward volcanic- or carbonate-rock units.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Analysis of ground-water levels and associated trends in Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, 1951-2003
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Online only
Year Published:
97 p. [some 11 x 17 in.] : ill.; online databases; maps
Online Only (Y/N):