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Delineation of the Pahute Mesa–Oasis Valley groundwater basin, Nevada

January 22, 2016

This report delineates the Pahute Mesa–Oasis Valley (PMOV) groundwater basin, where recharge occurs, moves downgradient, and discharges to Oasis Valley, Nevada. About 5,900 acre-feet of water discharges annually from Oasis Valley, an area of springs and seeps near the town of Beatty in southern Nevada. Radionuclides in groundwater beneath Pahute Mesa, an area of historical underground nuclear testing at the Nevada National Security Site, are believed to be migrating toward Oasis Valley. Delineating the boundary of the PMOV groundwater basin is necessary to adequately assess the potential for transport of radionuclides from Pahute Mesa to Oasis Valley.

The PMOV contributing area is defined based on regional water-level contours, geologic controls, and knowledge of adjacent flow systems. The viability of this area as the contributing area to Oasis Valley and the absence of significant interbasin flow between the PMOV groundwater basin and adjacent basins are shown regionally and locally. Regional constraints on the location of the contributing area boundary and on the absence of interbasin groundwater flow are shown by balancing groundwater discharges in the PMOV groundwater basin and adjacent basins against available water from precipitation. Internal consistency for the delineated contributing area is shown by matching measured water levels, groundwater discharges, and transmissivities with simulated results from a single-layer, steady-state, groundwater-flow model. An alternative basin boundary extending farther north than the final boundary was rejected based on a poor chloride mass balance and a large imbalance in the northern area between preferred and simulated recharge.