Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016WY91B

Groundwater Modeling of the Casper Aquifer, Belvoir Ranch, Cheyenne

Institute: Wyoming
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $42,302 Total Non-Federal Funds: $227,912

Principal Investigators: Ye Zhang

Abstract: Groundwater use in Wyoming comprises ~15% of all water resources, but is the preferred and significant source for potable domestic and public water supplies because treatment is minimal compared to surface water for these needs. If economically feasible, public and private water utilities in the State will actively seek out groundwater resources to augment existing drinking water supplies. As part of a plan to ensure future expansion of its groundwater supply, the City of Cheyenne purchased the Belvoir Ranch in 2003, with the Casper Aquifer as the target formation for potential exploitation and development. During 2006 to 2012, several reconnaissance level studies have been completed, including field mapping of hydrogeological features, geophysical surveys, and test drilling and pumping tests at six locations on the ranch. This research will develop, test, and verify a novel modeling technique to assess the sustainability of pumping the Casper Aquifer to provide future water supplies for Cheyenne. If the modeling technique can successfully identify the subsurface hydrogeologic properties and processes of the aquifer, including hydraulic conductivity distribution, recharge sources and rates, and fluid flow boundary conditions, it can be used to reduce the risks associated with drilling test and production wells not only at Belvoir Ranch, but at other hydrogeologic environments. Belvoir Ranch and the Casper Aquifer present a good test case because preliminary hydrogeologic data have been obtained, but much uncertainty about the occurrence and rate of groundwater flow remains. Reducing that uncertainty through a modeling approach will be key to moving forward with the City’s potential development of this resource and will prove to be a useful xploration/development tool elsewhere in the State. Therein lies the benefit and merit of matching a theoretic modeling approach to the already acquired knowledge and data of the subsurface at the study site.