Simulation of groundwater withdrawal scenarios for the Redwall-Muav and Coconino Aquifer Systems of northern and central Arizona

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5115

Prepared in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Yavapai County



The Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model was used to estimate the hydrologic changes, including water-level change and groundwater discharge to streams and springs, that may result from future changes in groundwater withdrawals in and near the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council study area, Coconino and Navajo Counties, Arizona. Three future groundwater withdrawal scenarios for tribal and nontribal uses were developed by the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council and were simulated for the period representing the years from 2006 through 2105. Scenario 1 assumes no major changes in groundwater use except for increased demand based on population projections. Scenario 2 assumes that a pipeline will provide a source of surface water from Lake Powell to areas near Cameron and Moenkopi that would replace local groundwater withdrawals. Scenario 3 assumes that the pipeline extends to the Flagstaff and Williams areas, and would replace groundwater demands for water in the area.

The Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council withdrawal scenarios primarily influence water levels and groundwater discharge in the Coconino Plateau basin, near the western margin of the Little Colorado River Plateau basin, and the Verde Valley subbasin. Simulated effects of the withdrawal scenarios are superimposed on effects of previous variations in groundwater withdrawals and artificial and incidental recharge. Pre-scenario variations include changes in water-levels in wells; groundwater storage; discharge to streams and springs; and evapotranspiration by plants that use groundwater. Future variations in groundwater discharge and water-levels in wells will continue to occur as a result of both the past and any future changes.

Water-level variations resulting from post-2005 stresses, including groundwater withdrawals and incidental and artificial recharge, in the area of the withdrawal scenarios are primarily localized and superimposed on the regional changes caused by variations in stresses that occurred since the beginning of the initial stresses in the early 1900s through 2005. Withdrawal scenario 1 produced a broad region on the Coconino Plateau where water-levels declined 3–5 feet by 2105, and local areas with water-level declines of 100 feet or more where groundwater withdrawals are concentrated, near the City of Flagstaff Woody Mountain and Lake Mary well fields, and the towns of Tusayan, Williams, and Moenkopi. Water-level rises of 100 feet or more were simulated at areas of incidental recharge near wastewater treatment facilities near Flagstaff, Tusayan, Grand Canyon South Rim, Williams, and Munds Park.

Simulated water-level change from 2006 through 2105 for scenarios 2 and 3 is mostly different from water-level change simulated for scenario 1 at the local level. For scenarios 2 and 3, water levels near Cameron in 2105 where 1–3 feet higher than simulated for scenario 1. Water levels at Moenkopi are more than 100 feet higher due to the elimination of a proposed withdrawal well that was simulated in scenario 1. Scenario 3 eliminates more groundwater withdrawals in the Flagstaff and Williams areas, simulates 1–3 feet less water-level decline than scenario 1 across much of the Coconino Plateau, and water levels that are as much as 50 feet higher than simulated by scenario 1 near withdrawal wells in the Williams and Flagstaff areas.

Scenario 1 simulated the most change in groundwater discharge for the Little Colorado River below Cameron and for Oak Creek above Page Springs where declines in discharge of about 1.3 and 0.9 cubic feet per second (ft3/s), respectively, were simulated. Other simulated changes in discharge through 2105 in scenario 1 are losses of less than 0.4 ft3/s at the Upper Verde River, losses of less than 0.3 ft3/s at Havasu Creek and at Colorado River below Havasu Creek, losses of less than 0.1 ft3/s at Clear Creek, and increases in flow at the south rim springs and Chevelon Creek of less than 0.1 and 0.3 ft3/s, respectively. Simulated changes in discharge for scenarios 2 and 3 are less than for scenario 1 because of lower rates of groundwater withdrawal. Scenario 3 resulted in greater groundwater discharge than scenarios 1 and 2 at all major groundwater discharge features from 2006 through 2105 except for Clear and Chevelon Creeks, where the same groundwater discharge was simulated by each of the three scenarios.

Changes in groundwater discharge are expected to occur after 2105 to all major surface features that discharge from the Redwall-Muav and Coconino aquifers because change in aquifer storage was occurring at the end of the simulation in 2105. The accuracy of simulated changes resulting from the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council groundwater withdrawal scenarios is dependent on the persistence of several hydrologic assumptions that are inherent in the Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model including, but not limited to, the reasonably accurate simulation of (1) transmissivity distributions, (2) distributions of vertical hydraulic properties, (3) distributions of spatial rates of withdrawal and incidental recharge, (4) aquifer extents, and (5) hydrologic barriers and conduits.

Suggested Citation

Pool, D.R., 2016, Simulation of groundwater withdrawal scenarios for the Redwall-Muav and Coconino aquifer systems of northern and central Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5115, 38 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract 
  • Introduction
  • Regional Hydrogeology
  • Description of the Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model
  • Withdrawal Scenarios
  • Simulated Effects of Withdrawal Scenarios
  • Summary
  • References
  • Appendixes 1–3

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Simulation of groundwater withdrawal scenarios for the Redwall-Muav and Coconino Aquifer Systems of northern and central Arizona
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Arizona Water Science Center
vi, 38 p.
United States
Online Only (Y/N):