Mammoth Residents Concerned Over Geothermal Plant Threat to Groundwater

Natural hot springs in the Mammoth Lakes area hint at the region's geothermal potential | Photo: clickfarmer/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A 33-megawatt geothermal power plant approved in August by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service has the town of Mammoth Lakes worried about its drinking water supply.

Ormat Technologies' Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Energy Project would draw 29,000 acre-feet of extremely hot water per year from deep within the rock layers of the tectonically active region, using up to 16 newly drilled wells.

But that geothermally heated aquifer lies beneath the cold water aquifer from which Mammoth Lakes draws its drinking water, and locals are worried that the Ormat's pumping could draw down the cold water aquifer: a troubling prospect in this drought as locals become increasingly dependent on groundwater.

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