Declining water levels caused by withdrawals of water from wells in the west-central part of the Denver Basin bedrock-aquifer system have raised concerns with respect to the ability of the aquifer system to sustain production. The Arapahoe aquifer in particular is heavily used in this area. Two optimization analyses were conducted to demonstrate approaches that could be used to evaluate possible future pumping scenarios intended to prolong the productivity of the aquifer and to delay excessive loss of saturated thickness. These analyses were designed as demonstrations only, and were not intended as a comprehensive optimization study. Optimization analyses were based on a groundwater-flow model of the Denver Basin developed as part of a recently published U.S. Geological Survey groundwater-availability study. For each analysis an optimization problem was set up to maximize total withdrawal rate, subject to withdrawal-rate and hydraulic-head constraints, for 119 selected municipal water-supply wells located in 96 model cells. The optimization analyses were based on 50- and 100-year simulations of groundwater withdrawals. The optimized total withdrawal rate for all selected wells for a 50-year simulation time was about 58.8 cubic feet per second. For an analysis in which the simulation time and head-constraint time were extended to 100 years, the optimized total withdrawal rate for all selected wells was about 53.0 cubic feet per second, demonstrating that a reduction in withdrawal rate of about 10 percent may extend the time before the hydraulic-head constraints are violated by 50 years, provided that pumping rates are optimally distributed. Analysis of simulation results showed that initially, the pumping produces water primarily by release of water from storage in the Arapahoe aquifer. However, because confining layers between the Denver and Arapahoe aquifers are thin, in less than 5 years, most of the water removed by managed-flows pumping likely would be supplied by depleting overlying hydrogeologic units, substantially increasing the rate of decline of hydraulic heads in parts of the overlying Denver aquifer.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Demonstration optimization analyses of pumping from selected Arapahoe aquifer municipal wells in the west-central Denver Basin, Colorado, 2010–2109