Fossil spring deposits in the southern great basin and their implications for changes in water-table levels near Yucca Mountain, Nevada, during quaternary time

Jay Quade, M. D. Mifflin, W. L. Pratt, W. McCoy, L. Burckle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

92 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fossil spring deposits are common in the southern Great Basin, and their distribution provides important constraints on the hydrologic response of the regional water table to climate change. This information is crucial, because the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain will be located nearly 200-400 m above the modern water table. Water tables will rise in response to a future return to glacial climates, but the magnitude of the change-and the consequences for radionuclide travel times and overall repository integrity-are key uncertainties. Increased recharge during past pluvial periods in the Spring Mountains and Sheep Range caused water tables to rise and ground water to discharge over broad expanses of the Las Vegas Valley system, and in nearby Pahrump, Sandy, and Coyote Springs Valleys. In contrast, other valleys in the region contain only small from local damming of ground water by faults that cut valley alluvium. The change in water-table levels since the last full glacial period varies between and within valleys, from as little as 10 m in several areas to 95 m in the Coyote Springs Valley. At Yucca Mountain, the water table has probably changed by ≤115 m in response to climate change. The spring deposits and the mollusk faunas found with them, often misinterpreted as lacustrine in origin, share many essential features with active spring systems in northeast Nevada. Deposits associated with discharge mainly consist of pale brown silt and sand that is entrapped by dense stands of phreatophytes covering valley bottoms when water tables are high. The record in subbasins of the Las Vegas Valley system is dominated by late Wisconsin-age sediments, although pond sediments and alluvium belonging to at least one older (pre-Wisconsin?) pluvial period are also locally exposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Volume107
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1995

Fingerprint

water table
Deposits
fossil
valley
mountain
basin
Water
Springs (water)
Climate change
Groundwater
repository
Sediments
alluvial deposit
Silt
Ponds
Travel time
climate change
groundwater
Radioactive wastes
Radioisotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

Fossil spring deposits in the southern great basin and their implications for changes in water-table levels near Yucca Mountain, Nevada, during quaternary time. / Quade, Jay; Mifflin, M. D.; Pratt, W. L.; McCoy, W.; Burckle, L.

In: Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, Vol. 107, No. 2, 02.1995, p. 213-230.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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