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Groundwater availability of the Williston Basin, United States and Canada

September 27, 2018

Executive Summary

The Williston Basin of the Northern Great Plains is a sedimentary basin—a geologic bowl-like structure filled with layered sedimentary rocks dating as far back as the Paleozoic age. The basin, which is nationally important for the production of energy resources, spans Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the United States, and Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada. The three uppermost principal aquifer systems are the glacial, lower Tertiary, and Upper Cretaceous aquifer systems. As deep as 3,000 feet (ft) at the center of the basin, these are the most accessible aquifer systems in the basin and are the primary sources of potable groundwater in much of this area. The glacial aquifer system consists of Quaternary-age unconsolidated till, silt, clay, outwash sand and gravel, and occasional cobbles and boulders. The lower Tertiary and Upper Cretaceous aquifer systems consist primarily of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, shale, and coal.

As energy demands have increased in the basin, horizontal drilling and hydraulic-fracturing have been used (especially since 2005) to develop previously inaccessible formations—namely, the Bakken and Three Forks Formations. The basin has yielded a large supply of domestic oil and natural gas since the 1950s, but the technologies required to extract those materials use large amounts of freshwater. The increasing freshwater demands of energy production in the Williston Basin, in addition to population growth, have led to a need for new tools to assess groundwater resources.

Publication Year 2018
Title Groundwater availability of the Williston Basin, United States and Canada
DOI 10.3133/pp1841
Authors Andrew J. Long, Joanna N. Thamke, Kyle W. Davis, Timothy T. Bartos
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Professional Paper
Series Number 1841
Index ID pp1841
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center