A geochemical study of major springs and wells in Spring Valley, Nevada, and Snake Valley, Utah-Nevada was initiated in response to the Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project proposed by the South Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). Water budget estimates suggest that interbasin flow accounts for a significant portion (~25%) of the water budgets in Spring and Snake Valleys. Although interbasin flow is possible in some areas, alternative plausible explanations place significant uncertainty on water budget allocations. To examine the plausibility of local and interbasin flow paths the groundwater flow in Spring and Snake Valleys was evaluated using solute and isotopic data. Evidence for local flow paths includes: 1) stable isotope values in local areas which are similar to isotope values in adjacent recharge zones; 2) measurable 3H content and 14C activities ≥ 50 pmc in most samples which suggests short residence times; and 3) plausible geochemical models of local flow paths. Previously defined interbasin flow paths in southern Spring Valley are marked by samples that have low 14C activities (mean = 20.14 pmc), which are consistent with long residence times and can be explained by either interbasin flow from adjacent basins or deep circulation in the basin-fill sediments of Spring Valley. Interbasin flow from southern Spring Valley to southern Snake Valley cannot be confirmed or rejected based on the current data and modeling constraints, which result in plausible models involving both local flow paths and interbasin flow paths. Interbasin flow from northern Spring Valley to northern Snake Valley is unlikely and can be explained by the deep circulation of groundwater that is mixed with modern recharge. The plausibility of alternative explanations to describe previously defined interbasin flow paths suggests that water budget allocations in Spring and Snake Valleys should be redistributed or reevaluated. The use of existing water budgets that allocate large components of water to interbasin flow to determine the distribution of water resources may result in incorrect estimations of available resources.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





groundwater, interbasin flow, stable isotopes, solute chemistry, carbon 14, tritium, Basin and Range, conceptual model, basin-fill



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Geology Commons