United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

History of Water Development in the Amargosa Desert Area: A Literature Review (NUREG-1710, Volume 1)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: May 2004
Date Published:
February 2005

Prepared by:
M.P. Lee*, N.M. Coleman*, and T.J. Nicholson**

* Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste Staff

** Division of Systems Analysis and Regulatory Effectiveness
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste Staff
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Abstract

Historic accounts, geologic treatises, and other key literature sources were used to identify factors that contributed to the development of local ground-water resources in the Amargosa Desert area during the past 150 years. The literature suggests that the earliest sources of fresh water supply were the abundant, naturally occurring artesian springs in Ash Meadows. The first hand-dug well in the area was the Franklin Well; it was dug in 1852 for workers performing a survey of the California-Nevada State line. The first mechanically bored wells were drilled in valley-fill (alluvial) deposits for local railroads, along their respective alignments, sometime between 1905-07. About 1917, the first irrigation well was drilled for an experimental farm - the T&T Ranch. In the late 1940s-early 1950s, permanent interest in the area was established, in large measure because of Federally-sponsored desert reclamation programs. However, designation of local aquifers as "protected," in 1979; limiting soil conditions; and other factors have curtailed local agricultural development. Because of economic and technical factors, alluvial aquifers have historically been the most important sources of ground-water supply. In general, drilling activity historically preceded geologic understanding of the ground-water resource.

This report is the first volume in the NUREG-1710 series.

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