2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


VANSLYKE, George D., Colorado Division of Water Resources, State of Colorado, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 818, Denver, CO 80203, george.vanslyke@state.co.us

For over 100 years, the bedrock aquifers of the Denver Basin have supplied high quality ground water to the Denver metropolitan area. Development began in the 1880’s with the drilling of artesian wells into the Arapahoe sandstone in downtown Denver. Until the early 1900’s many of these wells flowed at the surface. The artesian pressure was useful not only in bringing the water to the surface for domestic use, but was also used in constructing decorative fountains, powering elevators and even church organs. As the pressure declined, pumping began and the water used extensively for domestic, municipal and commercial uses.

The state did not impose any regulation on this well development until the mid-1950’s when permits were first required in order to drill a well. It was not until the late 1960’s that a form of allowable appropriation was developed and included in state statutes. This was modified in the 1970’s to include provisions for a useful life of the aquifers. During the 1970’s and 80’s, geologists of the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the US Geological Survey studied the hydrogeology of the basin in great detail. At the same time political and demographic influences were pressuring the legislature for more regulation of the Denver Basin aquifers. As a result of both studies and politics the Division developed Rules and Regulations for the production and use of water from these aquifers. This regulatory framework has served well for over 15 years.

With the new century has come renewed concern over the finite ground water resources of the basin. The artesian head will be gone within the next decade. Rising use and increased pumping costs from as deep as 2000-feet have begun to alarm water districts, governmental, and citizen groups. Additional studies are underway to examine the hydrogeologic character of the Basin. These studies will inevitably be used for the development of new regulations.