Water budget and potential for underground storage in the Buena Vista-Salida Basin in Chaffee and parts of Fremont, Lake, and Saguache Counties, Colorado, 2009-2012

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Population increases in the Upper Arkansas Headwaters Region, which includes Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Lake Counties, Colorado, are forecast to increase about 75 percent by 2030.  An annual deficit gap between supply and demand of about 5,950 acre-feet is anticipated.  Groundwater in the area is tributary to the Arkansas River but the effects of additional groundwater use are poorly defined by data. 

Hydrologic information from the study could be useful to resource managers and land-use planners. 

By 2030, the population of the Arkansas Headwaters Region, which includes all of Chaffee and Lake Counties and parts of Custer, Fremont, and Park Counties, Colorado, is forecast to increase about 73 percent. As the region’s population increases, it is anticipated that groundwater will be used to meet much of the increased demand. In September 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and with support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Chaffee, Custer, and Fremont Counties; Buena Vista, Cañon City, Poncha Springs, and Salida; and Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District, began a 3-year study of groundwater and surface-water conditions in the Buena Vista-Salida Basin. This report presents results from the study of the Buena Vista-Salida Basin including synoptic gain-loss measurements and water budgets of Cottonwood, Chalk, and Browns Creeks, changes in groundwater storage, estimates of specific yield, transmissivity and hydraulic conductivity from aquifer tests and slug tests, an evaluation of areas with potential for underground water storage, and estimates of stream-accretion response-time factors for hypothetical recharge and selected streams in the basin.

The four synoptic measurements of flow of Cottonwood, Chalk, and Browns Creeks, suggest quantifiable groundwater gains and losses in selected segments in all three perennial streams. The synoptic measurements of flow of Cottonwood and Browns Creeks suggest a seasonal variability, where positive later-irrigation season values in these creeks suggest groundwater discharge, possibly as infiltrated irrigation water. The overall sum of gains and losses on Chalk Creek does not indicate a seasonal variability but indicates a gaining stream in April and August/September. Gains and losses in the measured upper segments of Chalk Creek likely are affected by the Chalk Cliffs Rearing Unit (fish hatchery).