Get to Know Groundwater
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In the harshest desert in North America, it all comes down to water. The reason our region is so unique and irreplaceable is because it is rich with groundwater resources. A vast carbonate aquifer underlies the Amargosa Basin, bubbling forth at springs from the Oasis Valley and Amargosa Valleys in Nevada to the Shoshone-Tecopa corridor to Saratoga Springs and its final journey to Badwater.
Each of these springs harbors the amazing life that has made the Amargosa one of the most biodiverse locations in the Western Hemisphere. The plants and mammals, birds and fish that call these springs home lie in a delicate balance between water and desert. Even the slightest perturbations can substantially alter the spring habitats, and imperil species with the smallest of distributions.
A typical discussion about a watershed will describe the path of surface runoff. But the Amargosa Watershed is much more complex. While the hyper-aridity of the region means that surface runoff contributes a negligible amount to the hydrologic system, we sit on top of an enormous aquifer, and thus groundwater discharge at springs is the primary source of our water.
As a result, we focus on what happens to our groundwater. Where is it going? Who is using it? Are the springs which all life in the Amargosa depends on being affected by groundwater pumping, even at distant locales? These questions must be integrated to every land and water use policy which faces decision-makers in the northern Mojave Desert. A slight change in groundwater levels can have catastrophic effects on our endangered species.
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Due to the importance of groundwater for the River and local springs, we study the hydrology of the Basin extensively, trying to build a model of how the water flows, and keeping track of any changes to flow levels.
With the establishment of the Amargosa Wild and Scenic River in 2009, there arose a need to better understand the hydrological structure of the Basin – identifying where the water for the river comes from and how increasing industry and populations nearby might affect the flow of the river.
Thus came the State of the Basin Report. First published in 2012 and updated in 2014, this comprehensive report came from years of data collection and analysis.
• Update of work conducted since the 2012 SOBR.
• Up-to-date hydrologic information and a current, real-time snapshot of water resource conditions in the Middle Amargosa Basin area.
• Recommendations for long term monitoring and resource management for inclusion in a management plan for the Amargosa Wild & Scenic River (WSR).
• The Bureau of Land Management is developing a management plan for the Wild and Scenic portion of the Amargosa River.
• The SOBR provides the hydro-geologic characterization of the basin, which will inform the management plan to assure that monitoring is conducted in a meaningful way (and before potential irreversible impacts from future groundwater development occur).
• There have been few regional hydro-geologic investigations in the California portion of the basin, unlike the Nevada portion of the Amargosa River Basin that has been well-studied.