Ground water in Utah's densely populated Wasatch Front area - The challenge and the choices

Water Supply Paper 2232




Utah's Wasatch Front area comprises about 4,000 square miles in the north-central part of the State. I n 1980, the area had a population of more than 1.1 million, or about 77 percent of Utah's total population. It contains several large cities, including Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo, and is commonly called Utah's urban corridor.

Most of the water supply for the Wasatch Front area comes from streams that originate in the Wasatch Range and nearby Uinta Mountains; however, ground water has played an important role in the economic growth of the area. The principal source of ground water is the unconsolidated fill (sedimentary deposits) in the valleys of the Wasatch Front area northern Juab, Utah, Goshen, and Salt Lake Valleys; the East Shore area (a valley area east of the Great Salt Lake), and the Bear River Bay area. Maximum saturated thickness of the fill in the principal ground-water reservoirs in these valleys exceeds 6,000 feet, and the estimated volume of water that can be withdrawn from just the upper 100 feet of the saturated fill is about 8 million acre-feet. In most places the water is fresh, containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids; in much of the Bear River Bay area and most of Goshen Valley (and locally in the other valleys), the water is slightly to moderately saline, with 1,000 to 10,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids.

The principal ground-water reservoirs receive recharge at an annual rate that is estimated to exceed 1 million acre-feet chiefly as seepage from consolidated rocks in the adjacent mountains from canals, ditches, and irrigated land, directly from precipitation, and from streams. Discharge during 1980 (which was chiefly from springs, seepage to streams, evapotranspiration, and withdrawal by wells) was estimated to be about 1.1 million acre-feet. Withdrawal from wells, which began within a few years after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and had increased to about 320,000 acre-feet during 1979. Additional withdrawals from wells may cause water levels to decline, possibly leading to such problems as conflicts among water-right owners, increased pumping costs, land subsidence, and deterioration of ground-water quality. Some of these problems cannot be avoided if the principal ground-water reservoirs are to be fully used; however, management practices such as artificial ground-water recharge in intensivelypumped areas may help to alleviate those problems.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground water in Utah's densely populated Wasatch Front area - The challenge and the choices
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
vii, 71 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Wasatch Front