Water Resources of Colorado

Ground-Water-Quality Assessment of Shallow Aquifers in the Front Range Urban Corridor, Colorado, 1954–98

by Jennifer L. Flynn

Available from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4247, 32 p., 14 figs.

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Historical (1954≠98) water-quality data for major ions, trace elements, major plant nutrients, and organic constituents collected in 3,870 sampling events at 2,138 shallow wells represent ground-water quality in shallow aquifers that underlie the Front Range Urban Corridor in Colorado. Nonparametric summary statistics and maps of concentrations across the study area indicate that ground water in the study area included fresh to saline water. Sulfate concentrations were elevated in the north and northeast parts of the study area, possibly due to Pierre Shale and Laramie Formation shale outcrops in those areas. Apart from isolated areas of known contamination, chloride concentrations were generally less than 100 milligrams per liter across the study area. Wells with elevated nitrate concentrations usually were located near rivers and streams downgradient from metropolitan areas. Elevated nitrate concentrations in wells that were not along the South Platte River were possibly from individual sewage disposal system usage or from fertilizer application to land. Spatial distribution for organic compounds for which more than 40 percent of the data were above the detection limit (atrazine, methyl-tert-butylether, and prometon) is not widespread across the study area, but this may reflect limitations of data availability.

Summary statistics calculated or estimated by decade are influenced by the temporal variability of data across the study area. The median values of specific conductance, chloride, and nitrate from the 1970ís are less than values from the 1980ís and 1990ís, which, because most samples from the l970ís were collected in the western part of the study area, indicates that water quality in the western part of the study area is generally different than the rest of the study area. Chloride may be introduced to ground water from runoff of road deicers or chlorinated organics in transportation/transitional areas, where the median concentration is the greatest (85.0 milligrams per liter). Nitrate median concentrations are several times greater where the land is cultivated or used for agricultural business, which may reflect use of nitrogen fertilizers and the presence of animal feeding operations.

Most inorganic and organic constituents exceeded drinking-water standards in only a small percentage of samples. Exceptions to this include sulfate; nitrate; trace elements aluminum, cadmium, iron, and manganese; and organic compounds 1,1-dichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, and dichloromethane.




Purpose and Scope


Description of the Front Range Urban Corridor

Hydrogeologic Setting

Water use

Land Use

Water-Quality Issues

Methods of Data Analysis

Summary of Water-Quality Characteristics

Physical Properties and Inorganic Compounds

Organic Compounds

Summary of Water-Quality Characteristics Compared to Drinking-Water Standards

Inorganic Compounds

Organic Compounds



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Water Resources of Colorado

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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