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Ground-water conditions and effects of mine dewatering in Desert Valley, Humboldt and Pershing Counties, northwestern Nevada, 1962-91

December 1, 1995

Desert Valley is a 1,200-square-mile, north- trending, structural basin, about 30 miles northwest of Winnemucca, Nevada. Unconsolidated basin-fill deposits exceeding 7,000 feet in thickness constitute the primary ground-water reservoir. Dewatering operations at an open-pit mine began in the Spring of 1985 in the northeast part of Desert Valley. Ground-water withdrawal for mine dewatering in 1991 was greater than three times the estimated average annual recharge from precipitation. The mine discharge water has been allowed to flow to areas west of the mine where it has created an artificial wetlands. This report documents the 1991 hydrologic conditions in Desert Valley and the change in conditions since predevelopment (pre-1962). It also summarizes the results of analyzing the simulated effects of open-pit mine dewatering on a basin-wide scale over time. Water-level declines associated with the dewatering have propagated north and south of the mine, but have been attenuated to the west due to the infiltration beneath the artificial wetlands. Maximum water-level declines beneath the open pits at the mine, as of Spring 1991, are about 300 feet. Changes in the hydrologic conditions since predevelopment are observed predominantly near the dewatering operations and the associated discharge lakes. General ground-water chemistry is essentially unchanged since pre- development. On the basis of a ground-water flow model used to simulate mine dewatering, a new equilibrium may slowly be approached only after 100 years of recovery from the time mine dewatering ceases.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1995
Title Ground-water conditions and effects of mine dewatering in Desert Valley, Humboldt and Pershing Counties, northwestern Nevada, 1962-91
DOI 10.3133/wri954119
Authors D.L. Berger
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 95-4119
Index ID wri954119
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization