Hydrogeology and water quality of the Shell Valley Aquifer, Rolette County, North Dakota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4291




The Shell Valley aquifer is the sole source of water for the city of Belcourt and the primary source of water for most of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is concerned about the quantity and quality of water in the Shell Valley aquifer, which underlies about 56 square miles in central Rolette County and has an average saturated thickness of about 35 feet.

Water levels across most of the Shell Valley aquifer fluctuate with variations in precipitation but generally are stable. Withdrawals from the north well field decreased slightly during 1976-95, but withdrawals from the south well field increased during 1983-95. Water levels in the south well field declined as withdrawals increased. The average decline during the last 8 years was about 1.75 feet per year. The water level has reached the well screen in at least one of the production wells.

Most of the water in the aquifer is a bicarbonate type and has dissolved-solids concentrations ranging from 479 to 1,510 milligrams per liter. None of the samples analyzed had detectable concentrations of pesticides, but hydrocarbons were detected in both ground- and surfacewater samples. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were the most frequently detected hydrocarbons. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), and pentachlorophenol (PCP) also were detected.

Generally, the Shell Valley aquifer is an adequate source of water for current needs, but evaluation of withdrawals in relation to a knowledge of aquifer hydrology would be important in quantifying sustainable water supplies. Water quality in the aquifer generally is good; the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians filters the water to reduce concentrations of dissolved constituents. Hydrocarbons, although present in the aquifer, have not been quantified and may not pose a general health risk. Further analysis of the quantity and distribution of the hydrocarbons would be useful to understand their sources and implications for water use.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and water quality of the Shell Valley Aquifer, Rolette County, North Dakota
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
North Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
iv, 25 p.