Open-File Report 2006-1342
By David E. Prudic
Applications pending for permanent permits to pump large quantities of ground water in Spring and Snake Valleys adjacent to Great Basin National Park (the Park) prompted the National Park Service to request a study by the U.S. Geological Survey to evaluate the susceptibility of the Park’s surface-water resources to pumping. The result of this study was published as U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5099 “Characterization of Surface-Water Resources in the Great Basin National Park Area and Their Susceptibility to Ground-Water Withdrawals in Adjacent Valleys, White Pine County, Nevada,” by P.E. Elliott, D.A. Beck, and D.E. Prudic. That report identified areas within the Park where surface-water resources are susceptible to ground-water pumping; results from the study showed that three streams and several springs near the eastern edge of the Park were susceptible. However, most of the Park’s surface-water resources likely would not be affected by pumping because of either low-permeability rocks or because ground water is sufficiently deep as to not be directly in contact with the streambeds.
A memorandum sent by Peter D. Rowley and Gary L. Dixon, Consulting Geologists, to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) on June 29, 2006 was critical of the report. The memorandum by Rowley and Dixon was made available to the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the public during the Nevada State Engineer’s “Evidentiary Exchange” process for the recent hearing on applications for ground-water permits by SNWA in Spring Valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey was asked by the National Park Service to assess the validity of the concerns and comments contained in the Rowley and Dixon memorandum.
An Administrative Letter Report responding to Rowley and Dixon’s concerns and comments was released to the National Park Service on October 30, 2006. The National Park Service subsequently requested that the contents with three minor changes to the Administrative Letter Report be released to the public. The first paragraph was revised to better explain how the memorandum was brought to the attention of the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey and the purpose of the Administrative Letter Report. The second and third changes were minor word changes to the end of the first sentence at the top of page 11 and in the Summary statement, respectively. The Administrative Letter Report with these minor changes is reproduced herein.
Lastly, the National Park Service asked me to explain the difference between potentially and likely susceptible areas used in the report. Admittedly, the report did not clearly explain their usage. Potentially susceptible areas were used in the report to identify areas where (1) ground water interacts with water in the creeks but the connection between permeable rocks in the mountains with the basin fill is uncertain or where (2) ground-water interaction with water in the creeks is less certain but permeable rocks are connected with basin fill. Likely susceptible areas were used to identify areas in the mountains and valleys where ground-water interacts with water in the creeks or discharges as springs and permeable rocks are connected with basin fill. Likely susceptible areas are, therefore, more vulnerable to ground-water pumping.
Send questions or comments about this report to the author, David E. Prudic
For more information about USGS activities in Nevada, visit the USGS Nevada Water Science Center home page.