Nevada Water Science Center

Development of Guidance for Geothermal Energy Project Analysis and Monitoring in Nevada

The Bureau of Land Management has over 27 applications for geothermal energy projects throughout Nevada. Geothermal energy is energy derived from the natural heat of the earth. Geothermal resources are typically underground reservoirs of hot water or steam created by heat from the earth, but geothermal resources also include subsurface areas of dry hot rock. In cases where the reservoir is dry hot rock, the energy is captured through the injection of cool water from the surface, which is then heated by the hot rock and extracted as fluid or steam. Geothermal steam and hot water can naturally reach the earth's surface in the form of hot springs, geysers, mud pots, or steam vents. Geothermal reservoirs of hot water are also found at various depths beneath the Earth's surface.

Geothermal energy is considered to be a sustainable and renewable form of energy generation. However, there are existing concerns regarding impacts to water resources due to past projects and the lack of information regarding the geology and hydrology of geothermal sources. Previous projects have resulted in impacts to water resources including subsidence and reductions in flows to local springs. Connectivity between geothermal and shallow aquifer systems is generally unknown. Impacts to local water right holders and cold water springs are possible, but difficult to determine. Based on these unknowns, project analysis is challenging and each local unit is performing different levels of analysis and requiring different types of pre- and post-project completion monitoring. The BLM is currently working on developing guidance to support local units and help identify the level of analysis required to determine impacts to water resources and identify the type and quantity of monitoring.

This project will provide local units with a consistent pathway to determine how and at what level to analyze geothermal projects and formulate effective monitoring plans.

Research Plan

The NVWSC will be providing BLM with the following: 

  • Work with BLM to identify data gaps with geothermal energy sources.
  • Identify potential impacts to water resources from development of geothermal resources.
  • Identify analysis techniques and options for projects with data gaps.
  • Identify techniques to develop effective monitoring plans for geothermal energy projects.

Geothermal prediction map

Geothermal Favorability (click on image for larger view)

Quick Facts


Location: Western Nevada

Start Date: 2014

End Date: 2017

Cooperator: Bureau of Land Management

Contact Information


Jena Huntington

USGS Nevada Water Science Center

2730 N. Deer Run Rd.

Carson City, NV 89701

phone: (775) 887-7692





BLM: Bureau of Land Management




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page Last Modified: August 22, 2014