The Denver Basin bedrock aquifer system consists of Tertiary and Cretaceous age sedimentary rocks known as the Dawson, Denver, Arapahoe and Laramie-Fox Hills aquifers. The number of bedrock wells has increased from 12,000 in 1985 to over 33,700 in 2001 and the withdrawal of groundwater has caused water level declines in excess of 75 meters. Water level declines now range from 3 to 12 meters per year in the critical Arapahoe Aquifer. The groundwater supplies were once thought to be sufficient for 100 years but there is concern that they may be depleted in 10 to 15 years in areas on the west side of the basin. Groundwater is being mined from the aquifer system because the withdrawal through wells exceeds the rate of recharge. Increased groundwater withdrawal will cause further water level declines, increased costs to pump groundwater, and reduced yield from existing wells. In the Denver Basin, hydrologists have some capability to monitor declines in water levels for the Arapaho Aquifer, but generally have a limited ability to monitor water use. More complete and accurate water use data are needed to predict groundwater longevity for the Arapahoe Aquifer. The life of the Arapahoe Aquifer can be extended with artificial recharge using imported surface water, water reuse, restrictions on lawn watering, well permit restrictions and other conservation measures. Availability of groundwater may limit growth in the Denver Basin over the next 20 years unless residents are willing to pay for additional new sources of supply.
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Bedrock aquifers and population growth in the Denver Basin, Colorado, USA