Groundwater Levels in the Denver Basin Bedrock Aquifers of Douglas County, Colorado, 2011–19

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5076
Prepared in cooperation with the Rural Water Authority of Douglas County
By:  and 

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Abstract

Municipal and domestic water users in Douglas County, Colorado, rely on groundwater from the bedrock aquifers in the Denver Basin aquifer system as part of their water supply. The four principal Denver Basin bedrock aquifers are, from shallowest to deepest, the Dawson aquifer (divided administratively into “upper” and “lower” Dawson aquifers in Douglas County), the Denver aquifer, the Arapahoe aquifer, and the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer. Increased groundwater pumping in response to rapid population growth and development has led to declining groundwater levels in Douglas County, where groundwater is a primary water source for densely populated and rural communities. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Rural Water Authority of Douglas County, began a study in 2011 to assess the groundwater resources of the Denver Basin bedrock aquifers within the county. The primary purpose of this report is to present a summary of groundwater levels measured during the study period (2011–19) and present results from statistical analyses of changes in groundwater-level elevations, reported above the land-surface datum, North American Vertical Datum of 1988, through time. During the study period, January 2011 through June 2019, discrete groundwater levels were routinely measured at 36 wells producing from Denver Basin bedrock aquifers within Douglas County. Of the 36 wells, 15 are instrumented with pressure transducers that record groundwater-level measurements at hourly intervals, and these data were temporally aggregated into time-series records. During 2011, wells were added to the monitoring network in phases, so that the start dates of the well records are noncontemporaneous. To keep temporal analysis among wells consistent, the periods of record used in statistical analyses were from February 2012 through February 2019 for the discrete data and from January 2012 through June 2019 for the time-series data.

The upper Dawson, lower Dawson, Denver, and Arapahoe aquifers had some wells with rises in calculated groundwater-level elevations, but most wells showed declines on the basis of statistically significant trends and the relative differences in static groundwater-level elevations between the February 2012 and February 2019 measurements. Neither of the two wells in the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer showed significant trends in groundwater-level elevations, and these wells had few static discrete measurements, precluding a comparison between 2012 and 2019 static groundwater-level elevations. Of the 13 wells in the upper Dawson, lower Dawson, Denver, and Arapahoe aquifers with significant trends in discrete groundwater-level elevation measurements, the records of 12 wells demonstrated negative trends during the study period. The upper Dawson, lower Dawson, Denver, and Arapahoe aquifers had median significant trends of −0.23, −0.31, −0.92, and −2.26 feet per year, respectively. Although the Arapahoe aquifer had the greatest negative median trend, this median only represents one well with significant trends. Otherwise, the Denver aquifer had the next greatest negative trend, with a median trend of −0.92 foot per year. Significant trends in time-series groundwater-level elevations agreed with significant trends in discrete groundwater-level elevations; for all wells with statistically significant trends in discrete and in time-series groundwater-level elevation data, trend estimates from the two records were within 0.1 foot per year of each other. Potentiometric-surface maps of the upper Dawson, lower Dawson, and Denver aquifers, created using discrete static groundwater levels measured in February 2019, show that groundwater flow direction for the upper Dawson, lower Dawson, and Denver aquifers is generally from south to north. Results of this study could guide future groundwater monitoring in the county and aid in long-term planning of water resources.

Suggested Citation

Malenda, H.F., and Penn, C.A., 2020, Groundwater levels in the Denver Basin bedrock aquifers of Douglas County, Colorado, 2011–19: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5076, 44 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20205076.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Methods
  • Groundwater-Level Elevations in the Denver Basin Bedrock Aquifers of Douglas County
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Groundwater-Well Measurement Diagram
  • Appendix 2. Hydrographs Showing Groundwater-Level Elevation Through Time for Wells in the Douglas County Groundwater-Level Monitoring Network
  • Appendix 3. Descriptions and Equations of Mann-Kendall Test, Seasonal Mann-Kendall Test, and Sen Slope Estimate

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Groundwater levels in the Denver Basin bedrock aquifers of Douglas County, Colorado, 2011–19
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5076
DOI 10.3133/sir20205076
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Colorado Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 44 p.; Dataset
Country United States
State Colorado
County Douglas County
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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