The Nuclear Rocket Development Station, in Jackass Flats, occupies about 123 square miles in the southwestern part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Nevada Test Site. Jackass Flats, an intermontane valley bordered by highlands on all sides except for a drainage outlet in the southwestern corner, has an average annual rainfall of 4 inches.
Jackass Flats is underlain by alluvium, colluvium, and volcanic rocks of Cenozoic age and, at greater depth, by sedimentary rocks of Paleozoic age. The alluvium and the colluvium lie above the saturated zone throughout nearly all of Jackass Flats. The Paleozoic sedimentary rocks contain limestone and dolomite units that are excellent water producers elsewhere ; however, these units are too deep in Jackass Flats to be economic sources of water.
The only important water-producing unit known in the vicinity of the Nuclear Rocket Development Station is a welded-tuff aquifer, the Topopah Spring Member of the Paintbrush Tuff, which receives no significant recharge. This member contains about 500 feet of highly fractured rock underlying an area 11 miles long and 3 miles wide in western Jackass Flats. Permeability of the aquifer is derived mostly from joints and fractures; however, some permeability may be derived from gas bubbles in the upper part of the unit. Transmissivity, obtained from pumping tests, ranges from 68,000 to 488,000 gallons per day per foot. Volume of the saturated part of the aquifer is about 3.5 cubic miles, and the average specific yield probably ranges from 1 to 5 percent. The volume of ground water in storage is probably within the range of 37-187 billion gallons. This large amount of water should be sufficient to supply the needs of the Nuclear Rocket Development Station for many years.
Water at the Nuclear Rocket Development Station is used for public supply, construction, test-cell coolant, exhaust cooling, and thermal shielding during nuclear reactor and engine testing, and washdown. Present (1967) average consumption of water is 520,000 gallons per day--all supplied by one well. This supply well and a standby well have a production capability of 1.6 million gallons per day--adequate for present needs.
Water in the welded-tuff aquifer is of the sodium bicarbonate type. Dissolved-solids content of the water in Jackass Flats is in the general range 230 milligrams per liter in the western part to 890 milligrams per liter in the eastern part.