A contributing writer to NBC News, Linda Carroll, has examined the conflict between Mammoth Community Water District and Ormat Geothermal. Her story appears online. The Water District shared the information in what they are calling the “In Case You Missed It Series”. While network news writers rarely pay attention to minor water wars in the Eastern Sierra, it is known that Mammoth Community Water District paid $125,000 for a public relations firm to create a higher profile of the fight with Ormat.
The NBC writer calls it a “bitter battle” playing out. She describes Ormat’s plan to increase pumping of hot water from a deep underground source and the fact that residents fear this could threaten the cold water aquifer that supplies as much as 70% of the community’s drinking water.
The story says locals aren’t against geothermal power but do want the company to commit to drilling dedicated deep wells that would allow constant monitoring of changes and provide warning of threats.
Ms. Carroll also quotes Ormat Senior Vice President Bob Sullivan as agreeing that monitoring is important. She quotes him as saying he doesn’t believe there’s a need to drill expensive deep wells solely to keep track of water pressures and chemistry. Sullivan is quoted as saying that the hot zone can be monitored by taking working wells off line periodically to gather measurements.
The story says hot water is removed at one location and returned at another. Bill Evans, a research chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is quoted as saying that it’s possible removing the water could cause a pressure drop in the geothermal zone that might then draw down water from the upper cold water reservoir.
NBC says the town wants four deep wells to be drilled along with more shallow ones for monitoring. The USGS suggests one or two. Ormat says no dedicated deep monitoring wells are needed.
Water District Manager Patrick Hayes says Ormat wants the risk to be borne by the community. He is quoted as saying that the deep monitoring wells are his community’s “insurance.”
Bill Evans of USGS says “somewhere a compromise has to be struck.” So, there’s the latest in talk over Mammoth’s water supply and Ormat’s need for hot water.