Groundwater Use

Groundwater development for beneficial purposes depends on quantity (in terms of “sustainable” yield), quality (acceptability for class of use), accessibility (technical and economic feasibility), and availability (freedom from legal or political constraints). The feasibility of groundwater development in any given area of the WBRB, depending on many technical, hydrogeologic, and cultural factors, ranges from unfeasible, through adequate for limited local use (stock and domestic), to sufficient for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use.

Permitted municipal wells
Permitted municipal wells

Groundwater development proceeds primarily by installing water supply wells and, to a much lesser degree, by developing natural springs. The WSEO issues permits to appropriate groundwater throughout Wyoming. The Joint Tribal Water Engineer (TWE) of the Wind River Indian Reservation issues some permits within the Reservation. The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG) issues permits to appropriate groundwater in Montana. For this study the WSGS acquired groundwater permit data from all three agencies and provided copies of the WSEO data to MWH for their use in the 2010 Update Water Plan (MWH et al., 2010a) and associated Technical Memoranda. The WSEO provided information on approximately 19,508 groundwater permits through June 2009, including 682 permits (through 1985) that WSEO obtained from the TWE. The MBMG issued 45 permits through August 2009 for appropriating groundwater in the northernmost WBRB. The WSEO groundwater-permit database for the WBRB includes information on 620 springs.

Table below shows the number of WSEO groundwater permits issued through June 2009 for ten primary permitted use categories and “other,” which includes all other minor or unique uses.

Permitted well use Number of permits
Coalbed natural gas (CBNG) 27
Domestic 13,503
Industrial 341
Irrigation 459
Mineral 8
Miscellaneous 1,755
Monitor 1,913
Municipal 133
Stock 5,836
Test 97
Other 50
Total 241,122

Reference View complete Wind/Bighorn Basin Water Plan