Abstract

The concurrent development of the Steamboat Hills geothermal area for power production and the adjacent alluvial aquifers for drinking water in Washoe County, Nevada, necessitates a good understanding of the hydrogeologic connection between these water resources. The problem is that adequate characterization of the subsurface geologic structure is not possible with existing geologic data. This need prompted us to construct a detailed 3D representation of the subsurface geologic structure based on 2.75D forward modeling of 11 gravity and aeromagnetic profiles constrained by geologic data and physical (density, magnetic susceptibility, remanent magnetic) properties. Potential-fields modeling results provided greater definition of the alluvial basins, and when combined with well-log data, yield an overall basin volume surrounding Steamboat Hills that is 64% greater than the volume derived from well-log data alone. A representation of the geothermal reservoir, consisting of altered granodiorite and metamorphic rocks, illustrates that the flow of thermal water is fault controlled. The model also suggests that thermal water may upflow along an unexplored fault flanking western Steamboat Hills. North-trending faults that conduct thermal water from the geothermal system to the alluvial aquifer appear to be zones of altered volcanics that produce subtle aeromagnetic anomalies.

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