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Home > Water > Groundwater

Groundwater use in Colorado dates back to before the turn of the century.  Nineteen of Colorado's 63 counties (including the nation’s most rapidly growing county) rely solely on ground water for potable supplies and domestic uses.  Groundwater withdrawals by private wells and public water supply systems serve an estimated 20 percent of the state's population.  Agriculture is the largest user of groundwater, primarily for irrigation. However, groundwater is also used to meet nearly all livestock and rural domestic water needs. 

Groundwater is simply water that occupies the pore spaces or crevices within soil or rock. Some materials have a greater ability to store and transmit water than others.  An aquifer is a groundwater reservoir composed of geologic units that are saturated with water and sufficiently permeable to yield water in a usable quantity to wells and springs.  Sand and gravel deposits, sandstone, limestone, and fractured crystalline rocks are examples of geologic units that form aquifers.  The USGS identifies seven principal aquifers or aquifer systems in Colorado:  South Platte Aquifer, Arkansas Aquifer, High Plains Aquifer, San Luis Valley Aquifer System, Denver Basin Aquifer System, Piceance Creek Basin Aquifer, and the Leadville Limestone Aquifer of west-central Colorado.

Sufficient water for a single household may be relatively easily obtained from wells in the bedrock aquifers, even the crystalline Precambrian rocks of the mountains.  However, as households multiply, creating increased demands from many wells, a local aquifer with very limited storage that was sufficient for a few users, may be quickly depleted or polluted. Through wise water-management policies, protective regulations, and conservation activities we can assure ground water's availability and suitability for future use.

The Colorado Geological Survey has published a comprehensive and award-winning Ground Water Atlas of Colorado.  See the online version here.  For more information, see our publications here

The Colorado Geological Survey has three significant new reports on ground water in the Denver Basin. The reports, representing more than a decade of research, provide the most detailed information yet on the varied distribution of groundwater in the Denver Basin and show the most productive aquifers are concentrated near the mountain front and diminish to the east. Click here for the press release.

All three publications come in hard copy and include DVDs with detailed PDFs of the plates and GIS shapefiles containing metadata. The publications can be ordered from the Colorado Geological Survey Bookstore or by phone at 303-866-2611.

Last Updated: 11/15/2012 5:05 PM 
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