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Ground-water quality and geochemistry in Dayton, Stagecoach, and Churchill Valleys, western Nevada

January 1, 1994

The U.S. Geological Survey investigated the quality of ground water in the Dayton, Stagecoach, and Churchill Valleys as part of the Carson River Basin National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) pilot study. Four aquifer systems have been de- lineated in the study area. Principal aquifers are unconsolidated deposits at altitudes of less than 4,900 feet above sea level and more than 50 feet below land surface. Shallow aquifers are at altitudes of less than 4,900 feet and less than 50 feet below land surface. Upland aquifers are above 4,900 feet and provide recharge to the principal aquifers. Thermal aquifers, defined as those having a water temperature greater than 30 degrees Celsius, are also present. Ground water used in Dayton, Stagecoach, and Churchill Valleys is pumped from principal aquifers in unconsolidated basin-fill deposits. Ground water in these aquifers originates as precipitation in the adjacent mountains and is recharged by the Carson River and by underflow from adjacent upstream valleys. Ground-water flow is generally parallel to the direction of surface-water flow in the Carson River. Ground water is discharged by pumping, evapo- transpiration, and underflow into the Carson River. The results of geochemical modeling indicate that as ground water moves from upland aquifers in mountainous recharge areas to principal aquifers in basin-fill deposits, the following processes probably occur: (1) plagioclase feldspar, sodium chloride, gypsum (or pyrite), potassium feldspar, and biotite dissolve; (2) calcite precipitates; (3) kaolinite forms; (4) small amounts of calcium and magnesium in the water exchange for potassium on aquifer minerals; and (5) carbon dioxide is gained or lost. The geochemical models are consistent with (1) phases identified in basin- fill sediments; (2) chemical activity of major cations and silica; (3) saturation indices of calcite and amorphous silica; (4) phase relations for aluminosilicate minerals indicated by activity diagrams; and (5) results of optical, X-ray diffraction, and scanning-electron microscopy examination of mineral grains in the aquifer sediments. Sulfur-isotopic composition of ground- water samples also supports the models. In general, the quality of ground water in the study area meets Nevada State drinking-water standards and is acceptable for most uses. In addition to analysis for major ions, samples were analyzed for 22 inorganic trace elements, 3 nutrients, and 4 radionuclides. Selenium in 1 sample is the only constituent that exceeded Nevada State primary drinking-water standards. Nevada State secondary- drinking water standards were exceeded for fluoride in 1 sample, for iron in 7 samples, and for manganese in 19 samples. Minor constituent con- centrations are generally the result of local redox conditions, and are primarily from minerals in volcanic and marine metasedimentary rocks, metal- oxide coatings on mineral grains, and organic matter.

Publication Year 1994
Title Ground-water quality and geochemistry in Dayton, Stagecoach, and Churchill Valleys, western Nevada
DOI 10.3133/ofr93356
Authors James M. Thomas, Stephen J. Lawrence
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 93-356
Index ID ofr93356
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse