Population growth and the potential development of subsurface mineral resources have increased the need for information on the availability and quality of ground water on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Southern Ute Tribal Council, the Four Corners Regional Planning Commission, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, conducted a study during 1974-76 to assess the ground-water resources of the reservation.
Water occurs in aquifers in the Dakota Sandstone, Mancos Shale, Mesaverde Group, Lewis Shale, Pictured Cliffs Sandstone, Fruitland Formation, Kirtland Shale, Animas and San Jose Formations, and terrace and flood-plain deposits. Well yields from sandstone and shale aquifers are small, generally in the range from 1 to 10 gallons per minute with maximum reported yields of 75 gallons per minute. Well yields from terrace deposits generally range from 5 to 10 gallons per minute with maximum yields of 50 gallons per minute. Well yields from flood-plain deposits are as much as 25 gallons per minute but average 10 gallons per minute.
Water quality in aquifers depends in part on rock type. Water from sandstone, terrace, and flood-plain aquifers is predominantly a calcium bicarbonate type, whereas water from shale aquifers is predominantly a sodium bicarbonate type. Water from rocks containing interbeds of coal or carbonaceous shales may be either a calcium or sodium sulfate type. Dissolved-solids concentrations of ground water ranged from 115 to 7,130 milligrams per liter. Water from bedrock aquifers is the most mineralized, while water from terrace and flood-plain aquifers is the least mineralized. In many water samples collected from bedrock, terrace, and flood-plain aquifers, the concentrations of arsenic, chloride, dissolved solids, fluoride, iron, manganese, nitrate, selenium, and sulfate exceeded U.S. Public Health Service (1962) recommended limits for drinking water.
Selenium in the ground water in excess of U.S. Public Health Service (1962) recommended limit of 10 micrograms per liter for drinking water occurs throughout the reservation but principally in the central part. Of the 265 wells and springs sampled, 74 contained water with selenium concentrations in excess of the recommended limit. Selenium concentrations exceeded 10 micrograms per liter principally in water from aquifers in the San Jose and Animas Formations. The maximum selenium concentration determined during the study was 13,000 micrograms per liter in a sample obtained from the San Jose Formation. The only known documented case of human selenium poisoning caused by drinking ground water occurred on the reservation.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Availability and quality of ground water, southern Ute Indian Reservation, southwestern Colorado
Water Supply Paper
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
iv, 28 p. : ill., maps (1 fold. col. in pocket) ; 24 cm.