In the late 1980's Washoe County, Nevada, entered into an agreement with a private water development company to develop and export ground water from the Nevada portion of the arid Honey Lake Valley to the rapidly growing Reno-Sparks area. The proposed project is known as the Truckee Meadows Project (TMP). Honey Lake Valley is 35 mi north of Reno, Nevada; but is located predominantly in California. Computer groundwater models of the valley were prepared by the USGS and the TMP proponents and presented to the Nevada State Engineer to evaluate the impacts of the proposed exportation of 15,000 ac-ft annually from eastern Honey Lake Valley.
By using assumptions, numbers, and data which are not justified by the scientific data, both models place unreasonable and, in some instances, artificial constraints on the geology and hydrogeology of the ground-water system rather than allowing the geology and hydrogeology to constrain the models. Neither model is useful as a predictive tool. However, the major problems with the two models fall into two fundamentally different classes. The USGS model exceeded the technical limitations of the model code and made large, inappropriate adjustments to the water budget to compensate for these undetected errors. The TMP model used a water budget that was not technically justified or explained and placed the spatial distribution of ground-water recharge and discharge beyond the realm of hydrogeologic reality.