USGS Logo Geological Survey Bulletin 1508
The Geologic Story of Colorado National Monument


Artesian Wells

IT MAY SURPRISE YOU to learn that several sandstone formations supply water to artesian wells northeast of the Monument in The Redlands, Orchard Mesa, and the southwestern side of the Grand Valley, most of which are 500 to more than 1,000 feet deep. When first drilled and for some years later these wells flowed at the land surface, but eventually after too many wells had been drilled too close together, each well reduced the output of neighboring wells until most wells ceased to flow naturally. This made it necessary for most well owners to install pumps, which further aggravated the problem by reducing the artesian head (the height to which the water rises above the formation from which it issues). This created a situation not unlike too many children sucking on straws in the same ice cream soda, and led to a detailed investigation by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Colorado Water Conservation Board,12 outgrowths of which were the present report and its predecessors.

12For details see Lohman, 1965a.

The water system of the Ute Conservancy District was virtually completed by late 1964 and began to supply water to rural residents of Grand Valley between the towns of Palisade and Mack through a vast network of pipelines. The water is obtained from surface sources on the north flank of Grand Mesa east of the valley and is brought to the valley via a pipeline down the valley of Plateau Creek. Use of the new water has reduced the draft on many of the artesian wells. The reduced draft has locally arrested the decline in the artesian head or has actually allowed some recovery in head.

In order of their importance and productivity the water-bearing sandstones are the Entrada, the Wingate, and local sandstone lenses in the lower part (Salt Wash Member) of the Morrison Formation (fig. 7). In a few places small flows or yields are obtained from wells that tap the Dakota Sandstone and underlying Burro Canyon Formation, but inasmuch as the Dakota contains some marine sandstones from which all the salt seemingly has not yet been flushed out, the water from most of these wells is brackish or salty.

As we will see on the trip "From Grand Junction through The Redlands to the West Entrance of the Monument," pages 88-95, in and near the Monument these sandstones look bone dry, so how can they supply water to artesian wells? They are indeed dry in all the cliff exposures, but as will be noted later when the bending and breaking of the rocks are discussed (p. 64-71), erosion has exposed the upturned sandstones so that they may take in water from the many small streams that drain the Monument and adjacent areas for short periods after summer thundershowers or during spring thaws. The water moves slowly down the dipping sandstones and becomes trapped under pressure beneath overlying beds of siltstone or mudstone—materials that are nearly impervious.

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Last Updated: 8-Jan-2007