The Denver Basin is a structural basin on the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, Colorado, containing approximately 3000 ft of sediments that hold a critical groundwater resource supplying many thousands of households with water. Managing this groundwater resource requires understanding how water gets into and moves through water-bearing layers in a complex multiple-layered sedimentary sequence. The Denver Basin aquifer system consists of permeable sandstone interbedded with impermeable shale that has been subdivided into four principle aquifers named, in ascending order, the Laramie-Fox Hills, Arapahoe, Denver, and Dawson aquifers. Although shale can dominate the stratigraphic interval containing the aquifers, there is very little empirical data regarding the hydrogeologic properties of the shale layers that control groundwater flow in the basin. The amount of water that flows vertically within the basin is limited by the vertical hydraulic conductivity through the confining shale layers. Low vertical flow volumes translate to low natural recharge rates and can have a profound negative impact on long-term well yields and the economic viability of utilizing the resource. To date, direct measurements of vertical hydraulic conductivity from cores of fine-grained sediments have been published from only five locations; and the data span a wide range from 1??10-3 to 1??10-11 cm/sec. This range may be attributable, in part, to differences in sample handling and analytical methods; however, it may also reflect subtle differences in the lithologic characteristics of the fine-grained sediments such as grain-size, clay mineralogy, and compaction that relate to position in the basin. These limited data certainly call for the collection of additional data.
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Vertical hydraulic conductivity measurements in the Denver Basin, Colorado