Expert unsure if utility to blame for dry wells | SierraSun.com
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Expert unsure if utility to blame for dry wells

The latest installment of the controversy over dry wells at Prosser Dam Road played out at a meeting last week of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District board of directors.

The occasion was a report the district commissioned on the possible effect of groundwater pumping to water The Golf Course at Gray’s Crossing on the acquifer that about 66 Prosser Dam residents tap for drinking water. A handful of the residential wells have dried up over the past several months.

David Carlson, owner of Aqua Hydrogeologic Consulting, studied the area’s acquifer and reported to utility directors Wednesday about the role the district might have played in the spate of dry wells. He explained that more water is available in the east end of the Martis aquifer than the west, and perhaps the water runs downhill away from the Truckee subdivision.



“I can’t say definitively that the Truckee Donner Public Utility District is not taking away water from that [Prosser Dam Road] area,” Carlson said. “But it could be too many wells in that area. A whole bunch of wells in that area have a cumulative effect over the years.”

The district’s Ed Taylor defended the use of district water for the golf course.



“The wells are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do,” Taylor said at the meeting.

Taylor was speaking of the district’s 13 deep wells, the deepest of which are 1,200 feet below the surface. According to Taylor, the wells are monitored automatically every 30 seconds and are recharging as expected for the increased watering at Gray’s Crossing’s golf course.

The golf course is a district customer and began watering the greens and fairways this year at a rate of a million gallons per night. Taylor has assured residents that no connection exists between dropping water levels in their neighborhood and the high volume of water used by golf course owner East West Partners.

Taylor said the Martis Valley aquifer the district taps has enough water for 10 years without being recharged by snowfall or rain. The massive aquifer lies beneath Truckee and encompasses 36,500 acres ” from the east end of Donner Lake to almost the Nevada state line, according to a 2001 study by Nimbus Engineers.

Taylor said the aquifer is divided into three layers ” one at 100-200 feet deep, one at 300 to 600 feet, and another at 700 to 1,100 feet.

District officials maintain that impermeable clay layers between the aquifers prevent water transferring from one level to another. Taylor also points to the fact that the utility draws water from the two deepest aquifers, while the wells that went dry draw from the shallowest body of groundwater.

The district’s defense was not well received at Wednesday’s meeting by residents of the small subdivision.

“Not one well that has been redrilled has come across clay,” Carol Pauli told the directors.

At least six of the private wells on Prosser Dam Road have gone dry since May, according to another resident at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Is there a fissure between our little area and Gray’s Crossing?” Julie Vietor asked.

Taylor’s presentation included Carlson’s testimony, which was accompanied by maps of the Martis Valley area and a three-dimensional model showing well depths as if they were straws dipping into a pond. The maps were constructed using a modeling software.

Truckee resident John Eaton was unimpressed.

“You’re not looking at data; you’re looking at fantasy ” models are fantasy,” Eaton said. “I’m very uncomfortable with models; models are only as good as the numbers you feed into it.”

Eaton went on to criticize the Nimbus study, saying it was based on older models when it was written.

By the end of the marathon, three-hour discussion, board President Tim Taylor said he would direct staff to initiate talks with residents of the neighborhood about possibly connecting them to the district’s water supply.

But that didn’t satisfy Bob Thomas, who said he did not want to be “corralled into getting hooked up to PUD water yet.” Instead, Thomas said, “We want answers.”


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