The area described in this report consists of about 970 square miles in western Adams and southwestern Weld Counties in northeastern Colorado. It includes that part of the South Platte River valley between Denver and Kuner, Colo., all of Beebe Draw, and the lower part of the valley of Box Elder Creek. The stream-valley lowlands are separated by rolling uplands. The climate is semiarid, the normal annual precipitation being about 13 inches; thus, irrigation is essential for stable agricultural development. The area contains about 220,000 acres of irrigated land in the stream valleys. Most of the remaining 400,000 acres of land is used for dry farming or grazing because it lacks irrigation water. Most of the lowlands were brought under irrigation with surface water during the early 1900's, and now nearly all the surface water in the area is appropriated for irrigation within and downstream from the area. Because the natural flow of the streams is sometimes less than the demand for water, ground water is used to supplement the surface-water supply. Wells, drilled chiefly since 1930, supply the supplemental water and in some places are the sole supply for irrigation use.
Rocks exposed in the area are of sedimentary origin and range in age from Lato Cretaceous to Recent. Those that are consolidated, called 'bedrock' in this report, consist of the Fox Hills sandstone and the Laramie and Arapahoe formations, all of Late Cretaceous age, and the Denver formation and Dawson arkose of Late Cretaceous and Tertiary age. The surface of the bedrock was shaped by ancestral streams, the valleys of which are reflected by the present surface topography. Dune sand, slope wash, and thin upland deposits of Quaternary age mantle the bedrock in the divide areas, and stream deposits ranging in thickness from 0 to about 125 feet partly fill the ancestral valleys. The valley-fill deposits consist of beds and lenses of clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles, and boulders.
Abundant supplies of ground water for irrigation, municipal, and industrial use are obtained in the principal stream valleys from wells tapping valley-fill deposits beneath the flood plain and bordering terraces. Many domestic and stock wells obtain water from the unconsolidated deposits both on the uplands and in the valleys. The ground water in the valley-fill deposits generally is unconfined but in a few places is under slight artesian pressure. The bedrock formations yield small to moderate supplies of water to municipal, industrial, domestic, and stock wells, but the yields are not sufficient for irrigation.
Ground water in the South Platte River valley moves downstream and toward the river and is discharged into the river. The direction of ground-water movement in Beebe Draw and Box Elder Creek valley is nearly parallel to the streams. Beebe Seep, the stream in Beebe Draw, gains water from the groundwater reservoir in some reaches and loses water in others, but Box Elder Creek loses water to the ground-water reservoir throughout its course especially during floods. The shape and slope of the water table are affected chiefly by the permeability of the valley-fill deposits, the location and altitude of the areas of recharge and discharge, and the configuration of the underlying bedrock floor. The depth to water in the South Platte River valley ranges from less than 1 foot beneath the flood plain to as much as 80 feet beneath the terraces. In Beebe Draw the depth to water ranges from less than 1 foot to about 60 feet and in Box Elder Creek valley from about 5 feet to about 40 feet. During the period of record the annual fluctuation of water levels in wells in the area has ranged from 2 to 13 feet. Precipitation within the area and infiltrating water from irrigated tracts, reservoirs, canals, and streams are the principal sources of recharge to the ground-water reservoir; some recharge results from underflow from outside the area. Ground water is discharged by evapotranspiratio