In 1998, ground water was being pumped from about 420 production wells in the middle Humboldt River Basin for a variety of uses. Principal uses were for agriculture, industry, mining, municipal, and power plant purposes. This report presents a compilation of the number and types of production wells, areas irrigated by ground water, and ground-water use in 14 hydrographic areas of the middle Humboldt River Basin in 1998.
Annual pumping records for production wells usually are reported to the Nevada Division of Water Resources. However, operators of irrigation wells are not consistently required to report annual pumpage. Daily power-consumption and pump-discharge rates measured at 20 wells during the 1998 irrigation season and total power use at each well were used to estimate the amount of water, in feet of depth, applied to 20 alfalfa fields. These fields include about 10 percent of the total area, 36,700 acres, irrigated with ground water in the middle Humboldt River Basin. In 1998 an average of 2.0 feet of water was applied to 14 fields irrigated using center-pivot sprinkler systems, and an average of 2.6 feet of water was applied to 6 fields irrigated using wheel-line sprinkler systems. A similar approach was used to estimate the amount of water pumped at three wells using pumps powered by diesel engines. The two fields served by these three wells received 3.9 feet of water by flood irrigation during the 1998 irrigation season.
The amount of water applied to the fields irrigated by center-pivot and wheel-line irrigation systems during the 1998 irrigation season was less than what would have been applied during a typical irrigation season because late winter and spring precipitation exceeded long-term monthly averages by as much as four times. As a result, the health of crops was affected by over-saturated soils, and most irrigation wells were only used sporadically in the first part of the irrigation season. Power consumption at 19 of the 20 wells in the 1994-97 irrigation seasons was 110 to 235 percent of the power consumption in the 1998 irrigation season. If the amount of water applied to fields during the 1998 irrigation season were adjusted to account for these differences in power consumption, the average amount of water applied to a field during a typical season using center-pivot and wheel-line sprinkler systems would be 3.1 feet and 3.7 feet, respectively.
Total ground water pumped in the middle Humboldt River Basin during 1998 was about 298,000 acre-feet. This pumpage was distributed as follows: 78 percent for mining, 19 percent for irrigation, and 3 percent for industrial, municipal, and power plants combined. Mining pumpage is by far the largest source of ground-water use because several large gold mines have extended below local ground-water levels and the area around each mine must be dewatered in order to maintain a dry and workable mine. Total mining pumpage in 1998 was 233,000 acre-feet, of this total, 23,600 acre-feet was for consumptive use and 209,000 acre-feet was for dewatering eight mines. Excess water from the mines being dewatered was distributed as follows: 74,500 acre-feet was returned to aquifers by infiltration; 33,100 acre-feet was used for irrigation and for consumptive use at two mines and a power plant; 96,700 acre-feet was released to the Humboldt River or one of its tributaries; and 5,260 acre-feet was lost to evaporation.