Ground-water hydrology of the Sevier Desert, Utah

Water Supply Paper 1854

Prepared in cooperation with the Utah State Engineer


  • Document: Document (pdf)
  • Plates:
    • Plate 1 (pdf) Map of the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing location of selected wells and hydrogeochemical data
    • Plate 2 (pdf) Generalized geologic map of the Sevier Desert and adjacent mountains, Utah
    • Plate 3 (pdf) Geologic section across the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing generalized stratigraphy and lithology and selected parts from an electrical log from an oil test
    • Plate 4 (pdf) Map of the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing average annual precipitation (1931-60) and recharge areas along the north and east edges
    • Plate 5 (pdf) Map of the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing areas of artesian flow during 1935 and March 1964 and water-level contours in the upper artesian and unconfined aquifers in March 1964
    • Plate 6 (pdf) Map of the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing total dissolved solids in water from wells finished in the artesian aquifers, springs, and streams
    • Plate 7 (pdf) Map of the Sevier Desert, Utah, showing areas of phreatophyte growth in 1963
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The Sevier Desert, as used in this report, comprises the main part of the Sevier Desert, the Tintic Valley, and the southeastern part of the Old River Bed. It covers an area of about 3,000 square miles and occupies a large basin in the eastern part of the Basin and Range physiographic province.

Large alluvial fans extend from the mountain fronts into the basin where they interfinger with eolian and lacustrine deposits and with fluvial deposits of the Sevier River. These unconsolidated deposits form a multiaquifer artesian system that is more than 1,000 feet thick and that extends from near the area of main recharge along the east side of the basin to Sevier Lake.

Most of the recharge to the ground-water reservoir results from water entering alluvial fans as percolation from streams, irrigation ditches, and irrigated fields. Another important source may be water in the limestone, quartzite, and other consolidated rocks in the mountains that border the basin. Leakage from the Central Utah Canal is a major source of recharge to the water-table aquifer.

Flowing wells are common in the central lowland part of the Sevier Desert, but as a result of below-normal precipitation and an increase in withdrawals from wells during 1950-64, the area of flowing wells has decreased. The quantity of ground water being wasted from flowing wells is not more than a few hundred acre-feet a year.

The amount of water discharged by withdrawal from wells has increased nearly 15 times since 1950 (from 2,000 acre-feet in 1950 to 30,000 acre-feet in 1964). As a result of this increasing withdrawal, the water levels in observation wells have declined 4 feet in areas of small withdrawals to more than 7 feet near centers of pumping for public supplies and irrigation.

An estimated 135,000-175,000 acre-feet of ground water is consumed by evapotranspiration each year in the 440,000 acres of desert that mainly support phreatophytes. This rate of discharge has changed little since 1950. The consumptive waste of ground water by undesirable phreatophytes, principally saltcedar and pickleweed, was not a serious problem in 1964 but could become a serious problem in the near future if saltcedar is permitted to spread.

Water levels in wells changed little during 1935-40. During 1941-50, however, water levels rose in response to the general above-normal precipitation during 1939-47. During 1950-64 water levels declined, partly in response to below-normal precipitation and partly in response to an increase in pumping from irrigation wells. Although the period 1961-63 was one of above-normal precipitation, water levels continued the overall decline that was started in 1950. The decline, therefore, probably is due to increased pumping.

The amount of water that could be obtained from storage if the piezometric surface in the artesian aquifer were lowered 20 feet is estimated to be 120,006 acre-feet. The specific capacities of wells used for irrigation and public supply range from 5 to 215 gallons per minute per foot of drawdown. Specific capacities generally decrease with increasing distances away from the edge of the basin.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water hydrology of the Sevier Desert, Utah
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center
Report: v, 75 p.; 7 Plates: 30.00 in. x 24.82 in. or smaller
United States
Other Geospatial:
Sevier Desert