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Water resources of Parowan Valley, Iron County, Utah

August 29, 2017
Parowan Valley, in Iron County, Utah, covers about 160 square miles west of the Red Cliffs and includes the towns of Parowan, Paragonah, and Summit. The valley is a structural depression formed by northwest-trending faults and is, essentially, a closed surface-water basin although a small part of the valley at the southwestern end drains into the adjacent Cedar Valley. Groundwater occurs in and has been developed mainly from the unconsolidated basin-fill aquifer. Long-term downward trends in groundwater levels have been documented by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since the mid-1950s. The water resources of Parowan Valley were assessed during 2012 to 2014 with an emphasis on refining the understanding of the groundwater and surface-water systems and updating the groundwater budget.

Surface-water discharge of five perennial mountain streams that enter Parowan Valley was measured from 2013 to 2014. The total annual surface-water discharge of the five streams during 2013 to 2014 was about 18,000 acre-feet (acre-ft) compared to the average annual streamflow of about 22,000 acre-ft from USGS streamgages operated on the three largest of these streams from the 1940s to the 1980s. The largest stream, Parowan Creek, contributes more than 50 percent of the annual surface-water discharge to the valley, with smaller amounts contributed by Red, Summit, Little, and Cottonwood Creeks.

Average annual recharge to the Parowan Valley groundwater system was estimated to be about 25,000 acre-ft from 1994 to 2013. Nearly all recharge occurs as direct infiltration of snowmelt and rainfall on the Markagunt Plateau east of the valley. Smaller amounts of recharge occur as infiltration of streamflow and unconsumed irrigation water near the east side of the valley on alluvial fans associated with mountain streams at the foot of the Red Cliffs. Subsurface flow from the mountain block to the east of the valley is a significant source of groundwater recharge to the basin-fill aquifer. Groundwater flows from the high-altitude recharge areas downward toward the basin-fill aquifer in Parowan Valley. Almost all groundwater discharge occurs as withdrawals from irrigation wells in the valley with a small amount of discharge from phreatophytic evapotranspiration. Subsurface groundwater discharge to Cedar Valley is likely minimal. Withdrawals from wells during 2013 were about 32,000 acre-ft. The estimated withdrawals from wells from 1994 to 2013 have ranged from 22,000 to 39,000 acre-ft per year. Declining water levels are an indication of the estimated average annual decrease in groundwater storage of 15,000 acre-ft from 1994 to 2013.

Groundwater and surface-water samples were collected from 46 sites in Parowan Valley and Cedar Valley near the town of Enoch during June 2013. Groundwater samples from 34 wells were submitted for geochemical analysis. The total dissolved-solids concentration in water from these wells ranged from 142 to 886 milligrams per liter. Results of stable isotope analysis of oxygen and deuterium from groundwater and surface-water samples indicate that most of the groundwater in Parowan Valley and in Cedar Valley near Enoch is similar in isotopic composition to water from mountain streams, which reflects meteoric water recharged in high-altitude areas east of the valley. In addition, results of stable isotope analysis of a subset of samples from wells located near Little Salt Lake may indicate recharge of precipitation that occurred during cooler climatic conditions of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Publication Year 2017
Title Water resources of Parowan Valley, Iron County, Utah
DOI 10.3133/sir20175033
Authors Thomas M. Marston
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5033
Index ID sir20175033
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Utah Water Science Center