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New US Geo Survey Shows Less Groundwater In Moab Than Expected

Molly Marcello

The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a long-anticipated report showing 30 to 40 percent less groundwater in Moab than previously estimated. Scientists spent years collecting data from wells, springs and streams to better understand groundwater resources throughout the Spanish Valley watershed.

"So there hasn't been a comprehensive water budget analysis of the Spanish Valley area since the early 1970s," said Melissa Masbruch, co-author of the report and hydrologist with the USGS at the Utah Water Science Center. "And so we wanted to revise any of those groundwater budget estimates from that previous report and figure out the sources of recharge to the two main aquifers in the study area."

The USGS estimates the total amount of groundwater entering and leaving Moab’s aquifer system at 13 to 15,000 acre-feet per year, rather than 22,000 acre-feet per year as estimated in 1971.

"We took discharge measurements from streams, springs and wells in the study area," Masbruch said. "We took water quality estimates, including what we call environmental tracers which are constituents in the water that we can use to track sources and flow paths of the groundwater. We also took water levels – it’s another tool that we can use to look at movement of the groundwater through the through the aquifers.

In a press release, the USGS stated that these findings could inform local and state water managers as they evaluate how much additional development can be sustained in the Moab area.