Artesian pressures and water quality in Paleozoic aquifers in the Ten Sleep area of the Bighorn Basin, north-central Wyoming
The major Paleozoic artesian aquifers, the aquifers most favorable for continued development, in the Ten Sleep area of the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, are the Tensleep Sandstone, the Madison Limestone and Bighorn Dolomite (Madison-Bighorn aquifer), and the Flathead Sandstone. The minor aquifers include the Goose Egg and Park City Formations (considered in the Ten Sleep area to be the lateral equivalent of the Phosphoria Formation) and the Amsden Formation. Most wells completed in the major and minor aquifers flow at the land surface. Wellhead pressures generally are less than 50 pounds per square inch for the Tensleep Sandstone, to 150-250 pounds per square inch for the Madison-Bighorn aquifer, and more than 400 pounds per square inch for the Flathead Sandstone. Flowing wells completed in the Madison-Bighorn aquifer and Flathead Sandstone yield more than 1,000 gallons per minute. The initial test of one well completed in the Madison-Bighorn aquifer indicated a flow rate of 14,000 gallons per minute. Transmissivities range from 500 to 1,900 feet squared per day for the Madison-Bighorn aquifer and from about 90 to 325 feet squared per day for the Tensleep and Flathead Sandstones.
Significant secondary permeability from fracturing in the Paleozoic aquifers allows local upward interformational movement of water that affects the altitude of the potentiometric surfaces of the Tensleep Sandstone and Madison-Bighorn aquifer. Water moves upward from the Tensleep and other formations, through the Goose Egg Formation, to discharge at the land surface as springs. Much of the spring flow is diverted for irrigation or is used for rearing fish.
Decreases from original well pressures were not apparent in wells completed in the Tensleep Sandstone or in the Madison-Bighorn aquifer in the study area except for a few wells in or near the town of Ten Sleep. Most wells completed in the Flathead Sandstone, which also are open to the Madison-Bighorn aquifer, show a decrease of pressure from the time of completion to 1978. The decrease of pressure is partly the result of water moving from the Flathead Sandstone into the Madison-Bighorn aquifer, which has a lower potentiometric surface than does the Flathead Sandstone, even during the time the wells are not in operation. Pressure in some small-capacity wells completed in the Goose Egg Formation also has decreased near Ten Sleep. Most of the wells, particularly the irrigation wells, show a progressive decrease in pressure during the irrigation season but recover during periods of non-use. Measurements of the pressure were made principally in 1953, 1962, 1970, and 1975-78.
Well water from the Paleozoic aquifers generally contains minimal concentrations of dissolved solids and individual constituents, but excessive hardness. Dissolved-solids concentrations of water are less than 300 milligrams per liter in the Tensleep Sandstone and Madison-Bighorn aquifer, less than 200 milligrams per liter in the Flathead Sandstone, and as much as 450 milligrams per liter in the Goose Egg Formation. Bicarbonate is the major constituent, followed by calcium and magnesium. Relatively large concentrations of sulfate, as much as 200 milligrams per liter, were found mainly in water from the Goose Egg Formation. The water has low sodium (alkali) and medium salinity; therefore, the water is satisfactory for irrigation and most other uses, if excessive hardness is not a detrimental factor.
Wellhead temperatures range from 11° to 27.5° Celsius (51° to 81.5° Fahrenheit) within a range in depth of approximately 250 to 4,000 feet. This gives a geothermal gradient of about 0.44° Celsius per 100 feet (0.79° Fahrenheit per 100 feet).
|Artesian pressures and water quality in Paleozoic aquifers in the Ten Sleep area of the Bighorn Basin, north-central Wyoming
|Maurice E. Cooley
|USGS Numbered Series
|USGS Publications Warehouse