Friend and former student (my first graduate student, and still one of the best) Don Mahin of Reno, NV, sent me links to these videos (c. 1993) from the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. They describe the case of Wally Spencer, who claimed to have discovered a huge 'underground river' (cavernous aquifer?) beneath Nevada. Spencer's 'river' allegedly was originally discovered by two prospectors in 1927, who dynamited the only known opening to keep their treasure (gold) from the landowner. Spencer was a rocket scientist who used satellite imagery and some kind of device of his own design to locate the 'river'.
I know nothing of the details of Spencer's work, but the show left me with the impression that Spencer was foiled by Nevada's 'red tape' vis-a-vis water rights. He had 'found' all this water and the state officials were jerking him around. Naturally, he was concerned that his secret would be stolen and he would be left with nothing.
I don't see it that way. Nevada was simply asking him to demonstrate that the water actually existed. Spencer supposedly estimated the daily flow at 17B gallons (c. 52,000 acre-feet per day) but there is no indication of where that number came from. That is a lot of water - the mean daily flow of the Colorado River is around 38,000 acre-feet per day). No wonder the state was a bit skeptical. I am, too.
Recall that Spencer never sunk a well to prove that the water was there. That step is critical whenever you rely on indirect data - such as remotely-sensed or geophysical data -- to ascertain whether there is available groundwater. You need to ground truth the data - drill a well. The folks in the oil patch know this all too well. All the data in the world may point to an oil or gas body, but until you put the hole in the ground you're just blowing smoke.
I like what Michael Turnipseed said - that Spencer, with his allegedly unproven technology - was little better than someone walking around with a willow stick divining for water.
Unfortunately, Spencer died in 2003 without ever drilling for water. The exact location of the 'river' remains a mystery.
You can judge for yourself, or maybe not, given the sparse information in the show.
Here is Part 1:
Part 2 (just 1:24 long):
It is interesting to note that Spencer first made his claim in 1989, just about the time SNWA was filing its claims to subsurface water in large parts of rural Nevada. Just a coincidence.
Guess we'll never know. But if 'Wally's Water' is out there, SNWA probably has filed a water rights claim.
"As I gaze upon the sea! All the old romantic legends, all my dreams, come back to me."-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow