Hydrology of and potential for groundwater storage in the alluvial aquifer in the Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado

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Hydrologic analysis of the alluvial aquifer in the Wet Mountain Valley has been undertaken using synoptic streamflow and groundwater-level elevation measurements, aquifer tests, water-quality sampling and data analysis, and numerical groundwater-flow modeling. These datasets together provide an encompassing view of the interconnected water resources in the area and allow for quantitative assessments of groundwater storage.

The goals of this study are to: 

  • Quantify interactions between groundwater and surface water,
  • Understand groundwater ages and flow paths in the alluvial aquifer,
  • Characterize aquifer hydraulic properties,
  • Create and calibrate a numerical groundwater-flow model to represent groundwater-surface-water interaction and hydraulic heads in the valley, and
  • Apply the groundwater-flow model to predict the influence of increased groundwater storage on flow paths and streamflow.
    North Taylor Creek in Wet Mountain Valley, CO

    Image of North Taylor Creek in Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado prior to completion of a surface-water discharge measurement.

    Credit: Connor Newman, USGS

    The alluvial aquifer in the Wet Mountain Valley in Custer and Fremont Counties, Colorado, is the subject of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District to evaluate groundwater hydrology and groundwater-surface-water interactions.

    The valley is situated between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east. Streams sourced in the mountains flow into the valley and recharge the alluvial aquifer. Humans interact with the aquifer by extraction of groundwater through wells and by enhanced evapotranspiration caused by agriculture.