The Muddy River

The Muddy River and Warm Springs

The Muddy River, and its protection as a natural resource is at the forefront of SNWA’s efforts at Warm Springs Natural Area.

Muddy River Recovery Implementation Program Development of the Muddy River Recovery Implementation Program (RIP) was identified in the 2006 Muddy River Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and the Intra-Service Programmatic Biological Opinion for the Proposed MOA Regarding the Groundwater Withdrawal of 16,100 Acre-Feet per Year from the Regional Carbonate Aquifer in Coyote Spring Valley and California Wash Basins, and Establish Conservation Measures for the Moapa Dace, Clark County, Nevada. The Executive Committee of the RIP is comprised of the signatories to the MOA which include SNWA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Moapa Valley Water District, the Moapa Band of Paiutes, and Coyote Springs Investment, LLC. The RIP has a technical subcommittee, the Biological Advisory Committee. The Hydrologic Review Team was formed by the MOA and serves as a technical advisory committee to the RIP. Nevada Department of Wildlife was added as an ad hoc member to the Executive Committee. The goal of the RIP is to implement a series of species recovery actions necessary to promote recovery and conservation of aquatic species in the Muddy River ecosystem, while at the same time, providing for mitigation and minimization of potential effects associated with the development and use of water supplies and other activities that may affect the aquatic ecosystem.

Hydrology and Water Development

More than any other feature of the landscape, the hydrology of the Warm Springs area is key to the landscape. The unique hydrology is the reason Native Americans, ranchers, and people with recreational interests were drawn to the property and also the reason the property supports an endangered fish. The hydrology ties together a unique natural environment with the rich cultural, historic, and socioeconomic uses of the Warm Springs Natural Area. All are juxtaposed through time due to the thermal waters which emanate from more than twenty regional springs, numerous seeps and wetlands in the area. The springs then form warm-water tributaries, which become the headwaters of the Muddy River. The thermal spring water wells up at about 90°F from a deep carbonate aquifer. As the water flows downstream it cools and becomes less favorable to the existence of the endangered Moapa dace and the other thermophilic species.

There are five major spring complexes in the area. Two of these are on the Warm Springs Natural Area: Cardy Lamb and Baldwin Springs. The largest spring, producing over 4.8 million gallons per day, is Big Muddy Spring located on the LDS Recreation Area. The remaining springs – Pederson and Plummer Springs – are located on the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Two lesser spring complexes of note, are Twin Springs on the Warm Springs Natural Area and Jones Springs on the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge. A number of other unnamed springs and seeps also occur in the area (Beck et al. 2006).

The Warm Springs area is located near the southern end of the White River regional groundwater flow system and is believed to be the largest and one of the most southerly outflows from this groundwater system. The aquifers in this area are generally composed of Paleozoic carbonate rocks and Tertiary sedimentary rocks. Recharge in this system is primarily from precipitation in the high mountain ranges of eastern Nevada (Eakin 1966).

The US Geological Survey, irrigation districts, the US Bureau of Reclamation, the State of Nevada, SNWA and others have collected water levels and stream gage data throughout the system as far back as 1913. Six continuous-record stream gaging stations and 11 partial-record stations in the area are cooperatively maintained by SNWA and the USGS (Beck et al. 2006).

History of Water Development
From European settlement in the late 1800s to about the 1950s, water use in the area consisted of a few ranches that derived their water from individual springs or wells. In the 1950s, the ranches eventually merged into one large ranch with an intricate system of irrigation ditches.

Water Companies
In 1954, the Moapa Valley Water Company and the Overton Water District entered into a joint agreement to divert water from the Warm Springs area to residences, businesses, and dairy establishments to the south. For this purpose, water was developed from the Baldwin Springs complex. In 1960, a pump house was also built on Jones Spring and the landowner, Francis Taylor, donated water rights and one acre of land to the Moapa
Valley Water Company. Frederick Apcar soon bought the surrounding 45 acres for his own private recreational use, concreted one of the springs and built a large swimming pool on the site. A new pump house was constructed on the Jones Spring in 2004 by the Moapa Valley Water District (Beck et al. 2006).