Smith Creek - Loyalton, Sierra County, California

Why Hire PGH?

Population growth brings increasing competition and conflicts between a multitude of land uses. This poses increasing challenges of growing complexity in water resources development. Under these conditions careful management of water resources requires professional expertise from hydrologists and geologists.

Common Land Use Problems

In recent years the Sierra Nevada region has experienced one of the highest population booms in the State of California. Growing recreation and retirement communities populated by people escaping the urban congestion are facing land use is constraints by geologic hazards, such as landslides, flooding, and erosion. Other constraints are posed by limited water supply and water pollution.

Erosion Control and Flooding Solutions

To the prospective land owner our advice is to look carefully before buying.

We have responded to a variety of problems facing small land owners, including High Ground Water Tables and Failing Septic Leach fields; poor Domestic Well Water Quality; Erosion, Flooding, Land Slides, and many more.

Unexpected problems are inherited from difficult to control hydrologic and geologic settings, aggravated by historic human activities and current land use. These problems can severely diminish the monetary and visual value of private land. Examples are:

  • Troubles finding suitable domestic well locations in high density suburban settings encroached by septic leach fields.
  • Iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfite, natural organics, bacteria and other water quality problems in wells.
  • Diminished well yields caused by screen encrustation; “sand pumping” caused by casing and screen collapse.
  • High ground water tables encroaching into basements.
  • Stream bank erosion, sediment pollution and flooding problems, often leading to ugly gullies and costly losses in real estate. Such problems are often inherited from California’s historic land use patterns.
  • Failing septic leach fields due to poor soil conditions and high ground water tables.
  • Land and mud slides caused by high moisture conditions, erosion, grading and poor road construction practices.

Many of these problems have until recently haunted only large land resource agencies like the US Forest Service and BLM. But urbanization is increasingly affecting also private landowners, real estate developers and ranchers. Given our long term residence in Plumas County and in part by relying on what has been learned by the Feather River CRM, we have been able to give much valuable advice to land owners, realtors and construction contractors.

Other land use problems facing business property owners include hidden liabilities from hazardous chemical spills and leaking underground fuel tanks. Such issues need to be identified by means of environmental audits before a land purchase is closed.

Solving these problems usually requires on-site visits with a great deal of attention to detail, usually applying an interdisciplinary approach. We rely on our own hydrologic experience and historical records, while networking with local engineers, biologists, contractors and well drillers.

Percolation Tests; Soil Mantle Tests and Piezometer Tests

Land development in rural counties typically relies on underground leach fields to dispose of septic effluent. After all, it is a cheap and efficient way of residential wastewater disposal. Local building regulations require percolation and soil profile tests (mantle tests). Areas with high ground water tables require piezometer tests. Following County Health Department guidelines we provide advice on leachfield locations, if poor soil constraints require site specific solutions.

Ground Water Exploration

The growing rural communities increasingly rely on ground water. This trend runs into problems with water contamination from naturally occurring iron, manganese and organics. Other constraints are posed by leaking underground tanks and leach fields in the lake bed aquifers of Sierra, Mohawk and American Valleys. More and more land developers and municipalities are forced to develop ground water in the upland fractured rock aquifers (granite, volcanics and shale). This poses tough problems that have haunted many a driller and real estate developer used to the relatively easy ground water development conditions in the Central Valley of California.

In the past 20 years we have developed valuable local experience in dealing with these challenges. We have located numerous successful well drilling sites and helped develop ground water resources for many community service districts, housing developments and golf course projects in the local area’s fractured bedrock and valley fill aquifers.

Aquifer Protection

Water quality degradation is becoming one of the most pervasive side effects of land use. Driven by the booming population spreading into the rural communities of the American West, in the last two decades the need for ground water protection is becoming a growing concern.

Unfortunately, for the general public ground water flow still remains an obscure subject matter, making it difficult to convince that ground water pollution needs to be prevented. Public pollution awareness is typically characterized by the "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. Ground water is typically viewed as "pure", with many a proud land owner showing off their almost impeccably clean wells or springs. But once someone’s well is contaminated (or otherwise affected by competing interests) a change in attitude is usually inevitable. Contaminants and excessive water level declines in a well are apt to hit a raw nerve in the American public. At this stage most well owners tend to become very protective.

Ground water contamination is a nasty, expensive problem with severe economic liabilities for municipalities and domestic well owners. With rural communities heavily dependent on ground water, contamination from septic leach fields, leaking underground storage tanks, household wastes, water treatment plants, geothermal effluent, mine drainage, land fills and other sources is becoming a growing problem. After all, anything percolating into the ground will eventually end up in the underlying aquifer (if not in a stream) - water that someone else relies upon as a drinking water source.

As a result many of our clients are not only burdened by cumbersome state regulations, but also face serious dilemmas in ground water management. Many community services districts’ water resources have been affected adversely by competing interests, often requiring drastic measures to prevent soil and aquifer contamination. In the most unfortunate cases contamination and well interference has resulted in having to shut down municipal wells, if not requiring aquifer cleanup.

We have worked on numerous ground water management projects. One such project we have worked on locally is the American Valley Aquifer Protection Program around Quincy. Another project assessed urbanization impacts on ground water quality in southwest Reno. A major three year project by the Desert Research Institute included our participation in assessing the impact of irrigation return flow on the aquifers of the Fernley Basin, 30 miles east of Reno.

Environmental Audits

Commercial property transfers can be fraught with potential liability for both seller and buyer. In other words - "buyer be aware". We offer our experience in conducting environmental audits following commonly accepted ASTM guidelines. - We also conduct underground storage tank investigations, and assist landowners in recovering costs from the State Underground Storage Tank Fund. To support our projects we continue to maintain professional relations with a number of larger consulting companies in Reno and Stockton.

Geothermal Exploration

With steeply increasing petroleum prices the interest is growing again in direct use of low and intermediate temperature geothermal resources. But significant challenges remain, including disposal of poor quality water, remote locations and high initial capital investment outlays.

Our experience in intermediate temperature geothermal exploration reaches back to the early 1980’s, including geothermal projects in Nevada, Montana, Idaho and California, with an increasing number of projects in Modoc, Lassen and Plumas Counties. One advantage of northeast California’s geothermal resources is the reasonably good quality of its geothermal waters.

Our Specialties Include


Larger Hydrologic Issues

It is important to keep in mind the larger issues that govern today’s Water Resources Management, affecting us statewide, nationally and globally.  Issues such as long term water resources sustainability in conjunction with watershed management, infrastructure development, ecosystems management, and climate change  -   issues which on the long run no resource professional can afford to ignore.  Problems associated with these issues are likely to affect economic feasibility of many a land development project. (Click here to read more)


About Us | What We Do | Why Hire A Hydrologist? | For The Technical Minded | Projects | Clients | Contact Us

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Burkhard Bohm, Geologist and Hydrologist
CA Professional Geologist, License No. 5619
CA Certified Hydrogeologist, License No. 337

Call us at (530) 836-2208
Or contact us via e-mail