South Platte Alluvial Aquifer Water-Level Monitoring

Science Center Objects

Reports indicate that groundwater levels are rising in parts of the South Platte alluvial aquifer.  The Colorado Division of  Water Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are establishing a groundwater-level monitoring network in the South Platte basin.  The USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) monitoring wells are uniquely located so as to be included in the proposed network.   

The USGS has established a groundwater-level monitoring network in the South Platte alluvial aquifer by instrumenting 20 existing USGS NAWQA wells with pressure transducers and data loggers.

South Platte River Basin NAWQA study area

Land use in the South Platte River Basin varies from forested areas in the mountains, to urban areas along the Front Range corridor, and to agricultural areas in the plains.  Different land uses can lead to different water-quality conditions throughout the basin.

(Public domain.)

The South Platte River and underlying alluvial aquifer form an important hydrologic resource in northeastern Colorado that provides water to population centers along the Front Range and to agricultural communities across the rural plains. Water is regulated based on seniority of water rights and delivered using a network of administration structures that includes ditches, reservoirs, wells, impacted river sections, and engineered recharge areas.

A recent addendum to Colorado water law enacted during 2002-2003 curtailed pumping from thousands of wells that lacked authorized augmentation plans. The restrictions in pumping were hypothesized to increase water storage in the aquifer, causing groundwater to rise near the land surface at some locations.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Water Institute, completed an assessment of 60 years (yr) of historical groundwater-level records collected from 1953 to 2012 from 1,669 wells. Relations of "high" groundwater levels, defined as depth to water from 0 to 10 feet (ft) below land surface, were compared to precipitation, river discharge, and 36 geographic and administrative attributes to identify natural and human controls in areas with shallow groundwater.