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

Hydrologic Atlas 720-D
By: , 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. The purposes of the study (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. Previous reports in this series describe the hydrogeology of the Dakota Sandstone (Craigg and others, 1989), Gallup Sandstone (Kernodle and others, 1989), Morrison Formation (Dam and others, 1990), Point Lookout Sandstone (Craigg and others, 1990), Kirtland Shale and Fruitland Formation (Kernodle and others, 1990), Menefee Formation (Levings and others, 1990), Cliff House Sandstone (Thorn and others, 1990), and Ojo Alamo Sandstone (Thorn and others, 1990) in the San Juan structural basin.
This report summarizes information on the geology and the occurrence and quality of water in the Pictured Cliffs Sandstone, one of the primary water-bearing units in the regional aquifer system. Data used in this report were collected during the RASA study or 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 database. Although all data available for the Pictured Cliffs 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 in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah 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 and younger age; therefore, the study area is less extensive than the structural basin. Triassic through Tertiary sedimentary rocks are emphasized in this study because these units are the major aquifers in the basin. 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 southeastern Utah, to about 11,000 feet in the southeastern part of the basin. The area-weighted mean altitude is about 6,700 feet. 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 is about 12 inches.
Data obtained from documents published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census (1980 and 1985) were used to calculate the population of the study area. The population in 1970 was calculated to be about 134,000. The population increased to about 194,000 in 1980,212,000 in 1982,221,000 in 1984, and then declined to about 210,000 in 1985. The economy of the basin is supported by exploration and development of natural gas, petroleum, 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 minerals, oil, and gas industries, and support services. Uranium-mining and -milling activities underwent rapid growth until the late 1970's when most uranium-mining activity came to an abrupt end. Likewise, the oil and gas industry prospered until about 1983 and then declined rapidly.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrogeology of the Pictured Cliffs Sandstone in the San Juan structural basin, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah
Series title Hydrologic Atlas
Series number 720
Chapter D
DOI 10.3133/ha720D
Edition -
Year Published 1990
Language ENGLISH
Description 9 maps on 2 sheets :col. ;sheets 86 x 109 cm. and 86 x 99 cm., folded in envelope 30 x 24 cm.
Scale 1000000
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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