This report describes the geology and ground-water resources of that part of the Big Sandy Creek valley from about 6 miles east of Limon, Colo., downstream to the Kiowa County and Prowers County line, an area of about 1,400 square miles. The valley is drained by Big Sandy Creek and its principal tributary, Rush Creek. The land surface ranges from flat to rolling; the most irregular topography is in the sandhills south and west of Big Sandy Creek. Farming and livestock raising are the principal occupations. Irrigated lands constitute only a sin311 part of the project area, but during the last 15 years irrigation has expanded.
Exposed rocks range in age from Late Cretaceous to Recent. They comprise the Carlile Shale, Niobrara Formations, Pierre Shale (all Late Cretaceous), upland deposits (Pleistocene), valley-fill deposits (Pleistocene and Recent), and dune sand (Pleistocene and Recent). Because the Upper Cretaceous formations are relatively impermeable and inhibit water movement, they allow ground water to accumul3te in the overlying unconsolidated Pleistocene and Recent deposits. The valley-fill deposits constitute the major aquifer and yield as much as 800 gpm (gallons per mixture) to wells along Big Sandy and Rush Creeks. Transmissibilities average about 45,000 gallons per day per foot. Maximum well yields in the tributary valleys are about 200 gpm and average 5 to 10 gpm. The dune sand and upland deposits generally are drained and yield water to wells in only a few places.
The ground-water reservoir is recharged only from direct infiltration of precipitation, which annually averages about 12 inches for the entire basin, and from infiltration of floodwater. Floods in the ephemeral Big Sandy Creek are a major source of recharge to ground-water reservoirs. Observations of a flood near Kit Carson indicated that about 3 acre-feet of runoff percolated into the ground-water reservoir through each acre of the wetted stream channel The downstream decrease in channel and flood-plain width indicates that floodflows percolate to the ground-water reservoir.
In the project area at least 94,000 acre-feet of water is evaporated and transpired from the valley fill along Big Sandy Creek, 1,500 acre-feet is pumped, 250 acre-feet leaves the area as underflow, and 10,000 acre-feet leaves as surface flow. Surface-water irrigation has been unsuccessful because of the failure of diversion dams and because of excessive seepage from reservoirs.
Ground-water irrigation dates from about World War I; most of the 30 irrigation wells now in use, however, were drilled after 1937. Iv 1960 less than 1,000 acre-feet of water was pumped for irrigation, about 500 acre-feet was pumped for municipal use, and less than 10 acre-feet was pumped for rural use (stock and domestic).
Although additional water is available in the valley-fill deposits of Big Sandy and Rush Creeks, large-scale irrigation probably will not develop in the immediate future; soils are unsuitable for crops in many places, and large water supplies are not available from individual wells.
The dissolved-solids content of the ground water in the valley-fill deposits
ranges from 507 to 5,420 parts per million. In the Big Sandy Creek valley the
dissolved-solids content generally increases downstream, whereas in the Rush
Creek valley the dissolved-solids content decreases downstream. Ground water
in the Big Sandy Creek valley is suitable for most uses.