Exploration for and production of coalbed methane has increased substantially in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States since the 1990s. During 1999-2004, annual production of natural gas (coalbed methane) from the Raton Basin in Las Animas County, Colorado, increased from 28,129,515 to 80,224,130 thousand cubic feet, and the annual volume of ground water coproduced by coalbed methane wells increased from about 949 million gallons to about 2,879 million gallons. Better definition of the hydrostratigraphic framework of the Raton, Vermejo, and Trinidad aquifers in the Raton Basin of southern Colorado is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of coalbed methane development on the availability and sustainability of ground-water resources.
In 2001, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, began a study to evaluate the hydrogeology of the Raton Basin in Huerfano and Las Animas Counties, Colorado. Geostatistical methods were used to map the altitude of and depths to the bottoms and tops (structure) and the apparent thicknesses of the Trinidad Sandstone, the Vermejo Formation, and the Raton Formation in Las Animas County, based on completion reports and drillers' logs from about 1,400 coalbed methane wells in the Raton Basin. There was not enough subsurface control to map the structural surfaces and apparent thicknesses of the aquifers in Huerfano County. Geostatistical methods also were used to map the regional water table in the northern part of Las Animas County, based on reported depth to water from completion reports of water-supply wells. Although these maps were developed to better define the hydrostratigraphic framework, they also can be used to determine the contributing aquifer(s) of existing water wells and to estimate drilling depths of proposed water wells. These maps of the hydrostratigraphic framework could be improved with the addition of measured sections and mapping of geologic contacts at outcrops along the eastern and western margins of the Raton Basin.