The water resources of the Coconino Plateau in northern Arizona are under increasing demand as a result of development. The population of this arid region continues to grow, and the number of visitors to the many national and state parks and monuments in the region has increased annually. The sustainability, protection, and maintenance of springs and seeps and associated riparian habitat on the Coconino Plateau are major issues that have broad public and governmental support.
Regional stakeholders agree that an improved understanding of the regional hydrogeologic system is needed to address the concerns of water supply and ground-water sustainability. The base of information required to adequately describe the hydrogeology of the Coconino Plateau currently does not exist. Hydrogeologic data is most abundant for large population centers like Flagstaff and Sedona, but is sparse for less populated areas like Williams, Tusayan, Valle, and Cameron. There are still large parts of the Coconino Plateau for which there is no basic geologic or hydrologic information available. In order to develop a hydrogeologic framework for the Coconino Plateau, a comprehensive effort is needs to compile existent data and collect additional data to fill in data gaps and reinforce limited information.
In 1999, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began an assessment of the hydrogeology of the Coconino Plateau in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) as part of the Rural Watershed Initiative, a program established by the State of Arizona and managed by the ADWR. Assessments also are underway in the upper-middle Verde River watershed (Woodhouse and others, 2002) to the south and in the Mogollon Highlands to the southeast (Parker and Flynn, 2000).
Each study has as its objectives: (1) the collection, compilation, and evaluation of all existing geologic, hydrologic, and related data pertaining to the study area and the creation of a database that is readily accessible to the public and (2) the development of an understanding of the hydrogeologic framework, which is the relation between hydrologic and geologic properties, that can be used for water-resources management purposes and that will support the development of conceptual and interpretive models that can be used to evaluate the effects of climate and water use on regional water resources.