6.2 PICEANCE BASIN
The Piceance Basin located in western Colorado is an elongated structural depression trending northwest - southeast. The basin is more than 100 miles long and has an average width of over 60 miles, encompassing an area of approximately 7,110 square miles. The Piceance structural basin encompasses varying portions of Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Mesa, Pitkin, Delta, Gunnison, and Montrose counties (Figure 6.2-1).
Being part of the Colorado Plateau physiographic province, the Piceance Basin is characterized by a series of high plateaus and deep valleys. Downcutting of the Colorado River has divided the Piceance Basin into a northern and southern province. The southern province is marked by two significant erosional remnants, Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa. The northern province, that portion of the Piceance Basin between the Colorado and White Rivers, still retains basin-like features with rocks dipping inward from the margins toward the deepest part of the basin at the northern end.
Photograph of Coal Canyon near Palisade with Williams Fork Formation on the north
flank and Rollins sandstone in the foreground. Photo by R. Topper, CGS.
The Piceance Basin is part of the upper Colorado River basin that includes the area drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries upstream from Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. The principal rivers that drain the Piceance Basin are the Colorado, Gunnison, North Fork Gunnison, and White. Three Colorado Water Divisions administer the water in the Piceance Basin as shown on figure 6.2-1. Water Division 6 manages the north portion of the basin drained by the White River and its tributaries. Water Division 5 manages the central part of the basin drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Water Division 4 manages the southern portion of the basin from the crest of Grand Mesa south to about the Gunnison River.
There are no significant population centers within the Piceance Basin. Well permit records with the Division of Water Resources indicate that approximately 2,200 water supply wells have been drilled as of early 2001 (Fig. 6.2-1).