UGS Official News Release: New Report Highlights Potential Impacts to Utah’s Snake Valley if Planned Nevada and Utah Water Development Moves Forward

February 19, 2015

Groundwater Levels in Western Juab and Millard Counties are Declining; Additional Pumping Will Accelerate Depletion and Hurt Sensitive-species Habitat and Vegetation

Salt Lake City – A seven year hydrogeologic study to monitor groundwater in Utah’s Snake Valley was recently released by the Utah Geological Survey (UGS), a division of Utah’s Department of Natural Resources. The study shows potential groundwater development in Nevada and Utah would lower groundwater levels and reduce spring flow in west-central Utah used to support agriculture, habitat of sensitive-species and vegetation for grazing.

“The time and resources committed to this study delineates groundwater levels, flow and chemistry in Snake Valley and adjacent basins to a much greater degree than was previously possible,” said Hugh Hurlow, senior scientist for the UGS Groundwater and Paleontology Program. “With pressure to develop groundwater in west-central Utah and east-central Nevada likely to continue, we needed to understand how future development and groundwater use was going to impact Utah residents and natural resources.”

The report, Hydrogeologic Studies and Groundwater Monitoring in Snake Valley and Adjacent Hydropgraphic Areas, West-central Utah and East-central Nevada, closely tested and monitored groundwater in Snake Valley, Tule Valley and Fish Springs in Millard and Juab counties.

Monitoring by UGS revealed that current groundwater use in Snake Valley is slowly depleting the basin-fill aquifer. Present pumping rates will continue to lower groundwater levels and reduce spring flow.

The study also shows future water development and increased pumping in Nevada or Utah would significantly increase the rate and area of groundwater level decline. Additional pumping for local agriculture use, or export from the area would harm springs and shallow groundwater that supports habitat of sensitive-species and vegetation used for grazing.

Additionally, researchers found that shallow basin-fill and deep carbonate-rock aquifers are interconnected. Increased pumping could also cause drawdown from both, which in turn could impact valleys beyond Snake Valley.

“Groundwater pumping would affect environmental conditions and current and future groundwater use in Snake Valley,” Hurlow said. “Taken together, the proposals for groundwater development in the region exceed the groundwater available for development. The current ecosystem would be negatively impacted by all but small levels of additional pumping.”

The UGS study was funded by the Utah Legislature in 2007, primarily to evaluate the impacts of a proposed project by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to pump groundwater from several basins in east-central Nevada for use in Las Vegas. SNWA’s project includes wells in Snake Valley, within five miles of Utah.

SNWA’s original plan requested over 50,000 acre-feet of water per year (AFY) in Snake Valley and over 90,000 AFY in Spring Valley, immediately west of Snake Valley in Nevada. The Nevada State Engineer approved about two-thirds of SNWA’s request for Spring Valley, and has not considered the application for Snake Valley. Legal challenges to the Nevada State Engineer’s award have delayed the project indefinitely.

To complete the hydrogeologic study and groundwater monitoring, UGS developed a monitoring network that includes wells at agricultural areas, springs and remote sites. In all, 76 wells record water levels hourly, and new spring-flow gages are in place at six sites. Data from the study is available on the UGS Groundwater Monitoring Data Portal. Data collection is planned to continue for the foreseeable future.

The report is available for purchase from the Utah Department of Natural Resources Map and Bookstore, 1-888-UTAHMAP, GET IT HERE. A PDF version of the report is also available on the UGS webpage.

 

Media Contact
Nathan Schwebach
Public Information Officer, DNR
801-440-9094
nathanschwebach@utah.gov

Hydrogeologic Studies and Groundwater Monitoring in Snake Valley and Adjacent Hydrographic Areas, West-Central Utah and East-Central Nevada

Bulletin 135, Snake Valley, Groundwater

We’ve got our latest publication on the hydrogeologic studies done in Snake Valley hot off the press. Check out the press releases below.

edited by Hugh Hurlow

This report (269 p. 4Pl.) presents hydrogeologic, groundwater-monitoring, and hydrochemical studies by the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) in Snake Valley, Tule Valley, and Fish Springs Flat in Millard and Juab Counties, west-central Utah. Data From the newly established UGS groundwater-monitoring network establish current baseline conditions, and will help quantify the effects of future variations in climate and groundwater pumping. New hydrochemical data show that groundwater quality is generally good, major-solute chemistry varies systematically from recharge to discharge areas, and suggest that most groundwater was recharged over one thousand years ago, implying low recharge rates and/or long or slow flow paths. Two aquifer tests yield estimates of transmissivity and storativity for the carbonate-rock and basin-fill aquifers. Variations in the potentiometric surface, hydrogeology, and hydrochemistry are consistent with the hypothesis of regional groundwater flow from Snake Valley northeast to Tule Valley and Fish Springs. Collectively, our work delineates groundwater levels, flow, and chemistry in Snake Valley and adjacent basins to a much greater degree than previously possible, and emphasizes the sensitivity of the groundwater system to possible increases in groundwater pumping.

GET IT HERE

Check out some news releases online as well!

deseretnews.com
Study: Snake Valley groundwater development unsustainable
VIEW HERE

kcsg.com
Report highlights impacts to Utah’s Snake Valley if development proceeds
VIEW HERE

New 2015 UGS calendar showcases Utah’s geological landscapes

If you haven’t heard yet, our latest Calendar of Utah Geology is out and on the shelves. Check out this press release for more information! The calendars are on sale for $4.95 each or $4.25 for orders of 10 or more at the Utah Natural Resources Map & Bookstore, 1594 West North Temple in Salt Lake City. Buy it online HERE.

The photos are taken by staff members who are often on assignment in some of the most intriguing areas of the state.

kcsg.com

The Utah Geological Survey (UGS) is now selling the 9th edition of its popular calendar.

READ MORE

 

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kcsg.com

The Utah Geological Survey (UGS) has released a publication containing 10 geologic-hazard maps for an area of western Salt Lake Valley that includes portions of the rapidly developing cities of Herriman, West Jordan, and South Jordan. The maps address hazards associated with earthquakes, landslides, flooding, debris flows, indoor radon, shallow groundwater, rock fall, shallow bedrock, and problem soil and rock (collapsible and expansive soils). The maps present a comprehensive hazard assessment and were prepared by compiling scientific and field data.

READ MORE

 

UGS Rockfall Investigation in the News

Here are several more articles about the UGS rockfall investigation, including our own news release with links to the published report.

UGS News Release
Deseret News article
ABC News article

News on the Latest UGS Rockfall Investigation in the Zion Area

kcsg.com

Residents living within high rock-fall-hazard zones in Rockville, Utah, face the possible consequences of a large rock fall similar to the fatal event that occurred last December. That is the principle finding of a geologic investigation into the rock fall that killed two people on December 12, 2013. That afternoon, a huge, joint-controlled rock mass, with an estimated volume of almost 1,400 cubic yards and weighing about 2,700 tons, detached from the cliff face at the top of the Rockville Bench, near Zion National Park. The rock mass fell onto the steep slope below the cliff, and shattered into numerous fragments. The rock fall debris then moved rapidly downslope before striking and destroying a house, detached garage, and a car. The largest boulder to strike the house weighed an estimated 520 tons.

READ MORE

USGS Release: New Utah Maps and Road Provider

usgs.gov

Newly released US Topo maps  for Utah now feature a new commercial road data provider. The latest highway, road and street data from HERE has been added to the 1,476 revised US Topo quadrangles for the state.

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New Feature – “Spot the Rock” Kicks off Today

Hey geo friends! Today we kick off an exciting new feature—”Spot the Rock”. Check out this press release for more info, and stay tuned for the inaugural post of “Spot the Rock” later today!
Like us on FACEBOOK or follow us on TWITTER to participate!

kcsg.com
The Utah Geological Survey (UGS) kicks off a new way to familiarize yourself with the state. It is called “Spot the Rock” and it is a way to show off Utah’s spectacular geologically themed sights.
READ MORE HERE

Geology | Jurassic sea of sand stretched for miles and miles

www.dispatch.com

Sand. Sand as far as the eye could see. Sand that stretched from central Arizona to northern Wyoming and spilled into California and Nevada. Dunes as tall as 30 feet.

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"Behind the Scenes" look at Natural History Museum yields earth's secrets

deseretnews.com

At any given moment in the foothills of Salt Lake City, DNA sequencing of a tiny kernel of corn could unlock new information about ancient agriculture in Utah.

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