Hydrogeology of the Cliff House Sandstone in the San Juan structural basin, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah

Hydrologic Atlas 720-E

, , , , and



This report is one in a series resulting from the U.S. Geological Survey's Regional Aquifer-System Analysis (RASA) study of the San Juan structural basin that began in October 1984. Previous reports in the series describe the hydrogeology of the Dakota Sandstone (Craigg and others, 1989), Point Lookout Sandstone (Craigg and others, 1990), Morrison Formation (Dam and others, 1990), Gallup Sandstone (Kernodle and others, 1989), and Menefee Formation (Levings and others, 1990) in the San Juan structural basin. The purposes of the RASA (Welder, 1986) are to: (1) Define and evaluate the aquifer system; (2) assess the effects of past, present, and potential ground-water use on aquifers and streams; and (3) determine the availability and quality of ground water.
This report summarizes information on the geology and the occurrence and quality of water in the Cliff House Sandstone, one of the primary water-bearing units in the regional aquifer system. Data used in this report were collected during the study or were derived from existing records in the U.S. Geological Survey's computerized National Water Information System (NWIS) data base, the Petroleum Information Corporation's data base, and the Dwight's ENERGYDATA Inc. BRIN data base. Although all data available for the Cliff House Sandstone were considered in formulating the discussions in the text, not all those data could be plotted on the illustrations.
The San Juan structural basin is in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah and has an area of about 21,600 square miles (fig. 1). The structural basin is about 140 miles wide and about 200 miles long. The study area is that part of the structural basin that contains rocks of Triassic or younger age and, therefore, is less extensive than the structural basin. Triassic through Tertiary sedimentary rocks are emphasized in this study because the major aquifers in the basin are present in these rocks. The study area is about 140 miles wide (about the same as the structural basin), 180 miles long, and has an area of about 19,400 square miles.
Altitudes in the study area range from about 4,500 feet in San Juan County, Utah, to about 11,000 feet in Cibola County, New Mexico. Annual precipitation in the high mountainous areas along the north and east margins of the basin is as much as 45 inches, whereas annual precipitation in the lower altitude, central basin is generally less than 8 inches. Mean annual precipitation in the study area is about 12 inches.
Data obtained from documents published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1980 and 1985, were used to estimate the population of the study area. The population of the study area in 1970 was estimated to be about 134,000. The population rose to about 194,000 in 1980, 212,000 in 1982, 221,000 in 1984, and then fell to about 210,000 in 1985. The economy of the basin is supported by exploration and development of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and uranium resources; urban enterprise, farming and ranching; tourism; and recreation. The rise and fall in population were related to changes in the economic strength of the mining, petroleum, and natural-gas industries, and support services. Uranium mining and milling activities grew rapidly until the late 1970's when most uranium-mining activity ended in the study area. Likewise, the oil and gas industry prospered until about 1983 and then declined rapidly, also affecting many jobs in support industries.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology of the Cliff House Sandstone in the San Juan structural basin, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah
Series title:
Hydrologic Atlas
Series number:
Year Published:
8 maps on 2 sheets :col. ;sheets 86 x 112 cm. and 86 x 84 cm., folded in envelope 30 x 24 cm.
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):