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Water Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce water resource impacts from geothermal energy development.

The following are examples of mitigation measures that could be applied to reduce water resource impacts from site- and project-specific conditions. Impacts to water resources are related to the project footprint (e.g., land disturbance, erosion, changes in runoff patterns, and hydrological alterations), project emissions (e.g., sediment runoff and water releases), and resource use (e.g., water extraction). Many impacts can be reduced or avoided when considered during the siting and design phase.

Develop a final set of mitigation measures for any project in consultation with the appropriate federal resource management agencies and stakeholders. Conduct these consultations early in the project development process and preferably prior to final project siting and design.

Siting and Design Mitigation Measures

Siting and design considerations that mitigate impacts include:

  • Research the local hydrogeology to identify areas of groundwater discharge and recharge and their potential relationships with surface water bodies and groundwater quality.
  • Avoid creating hydrologic conduits between two aquifers during foundation excavation and other activities.
  • Avoid streams, wetlands, and drainages where possible. Well pads should be developed outside of 100-year floodplains. Locate access roads to minimize stream crossings and to minimize impacts where crossings cannot be avoided.
  • Develop a stormwater management plan for the project site to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and prevent off-site migration of contaminated stormwater or increased soil erosion.
  • Minimize the planned amount of land disturbance as much as possible. Use existing roads, borrow pits, and quarries.
  • Use special construction techniques in areas of steep slopes, erodible soils, and stream crossings.
  • Construct drainage ditches only where necessary. Use appropriate structures at culvert outlets to prevent erosion.
  • Avoid altering existing drainage systems, especially in sensitive areas such as erodible soils or steep slopes.

General Mitigation Measures

General mitigation practices and principles that could apply to any or all phases of a geothermal energy development project include:

  • Employ effective drilling and well completion technologies to prevent the interconnection of subsurface formations, particularly with respect to the protection of local drinking water aquifers.
  • Apply erosion controls relative to possible soil erosion from vehicular traffic.
  • Use dust suppression techniques to minimize impacts of vehicular traffic and wind on roads and exposed soils.
  • Reclaim or apply protective covering on disturbed soils as quickly as possible.
  • Clean and maintain catch basins, drainage ditches, and culverts regularly.
  • Refuel in a designated fueling area that includes a temporary berm to limit the spread of any spill.
  • Use drip pans during refueling to contain accidental releases and under fuel pump and valve mechanisms of any bulk fueling vehicles parked at the project site.
  • Limit pesticide use to nonpersistent, immobile pesticides.

Project Phase-Specific Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures specific to a particular phase of a geothermal energy project include:

Construction Practices

  • Save topsoil removed during construction and use to reclaim disturbed areas upon completion of construction activities.
  • Avoid creating excessive slopes during excavation and blasting operations.
  • Closely monitor construction near aquifer recharge areas to reduce potential contamination of the aquifer.
  • Obtain borrow material from authorized and permitted sites.
  • Dispose of excess excavation materials in approved areas to control erosion and minimize leaching of hazardous materials.

Decommissioning/Site Reclamation

  • Use topsoil removed during decommissioning activities to reclaim disturbed areas.
  • Return access roads and well pads to as-near-natural contours as feasible. Distribute topsoil stockpiled at the beginning of the project over the site during final reclamation. Stabilize all areas of disturbed soil using weed-free native shrubs, grasses, and forbs.
  • Reestablish the original grade and drainage pattern to the extent practicable.
  • Restore the banks of water bodies to their natural condition.
  • Backfill any foundations and trenches, preferably with excess excavation material generated during construction.
  • Keep equipment within the limits of the previously disturbed areas.