Hydrogeologic study shows need for reduced groundwater use


Courtesy Photo

A black pickup truck sits on the west side of the Pine Bluffs Post Office April 1 after a prankster wrapped the vehicle in plastic.

The Wyoming State Engineer's Office (WSEO) released a hydrogeologic study of the Laramie County Control Area (LCCA) last week, showing graphs and presenting scenarios aiming to address concerns of groundwater.

The consensus of the study is the reduction of groundwater withdrawal is needed.

"If groundwater withdrawals continue to increase, expect there to be areas in the county (both localized outside of, and within, the LCCA) where groundwater extraction becomes impractical," a section of the study summarizes.

The study presented potential management goals under three main categories: "1) a managed rate of future groundwater decline, 2) stabilization of groundwater levels and 3) recovery of groundwater levels."

The study found that the three main areas of groundwater usage historically are Pine Bluffs, Carpenter, Albin and around Cheyenne.

"Groundwater levels in the Pine Bluffs and Carpenter portion of the county have declined primarily due to the long-term impact of large irrigation withdrawals from a productive, but relatively thin aquifer," the study states.

Another section of the study then presented several hypothetical scenarios. One hypothetical scenario listed in the study is the establishment of a permanent spacing order. A temporary spacing order is currently in effect for the LCCA. Another scenario is 50 percent reduction in irrigation groundwater use. Other scenarios include reducing ground water use by district and eliminating growth in groundwater use.

The study goes on to present recommendations to the WSEO, on how to address groundwater usage in the Control Area. Some suggestions encouraged the state engineer's office to work with stakeholders to reduce the withdrawal of groundwater. Other suggestions included considering a variety of water management tools, including installing new monitoring wells to add to the existing network of WSEO monitoring wells.

Lisa Lindemann with the groundwater division of the State Engineer's Office said the department and State Engineer Patrick Tyrrell wants to work with irrigators and other stakeholders to come up with solutions.

The State engineer is holding a public meeting 9 a.m. Thursday at the Wyoming Department of Transportation Auditorium in Cheyenne.

"This hearing is an attempt to get the appropriators to come forward and present some ideas," Lindemann said.

The LCCA Advisory Board will also be present at the meeting.

Some Laramie County irrigators are concerned about a possible reduction, including Monte Lerwick, an irrigator in Albin.

Lerwick said he and other irrigators are already doing many things to be more efficient with groundwater use in irrigation. Further reduction could mean less equity and productivity on irrigated land.

"What happens is as we shrink our irrigation use, the people who sell fertilizer will sell less. The people who sell seed will sell less. ... There will just be less product," Lerwick said.

To view the entire hydrogeologic study, visit the WSEO website, http://seo.wyo.gov/home/news-and-press-releases. A link to the entire study and models can be found at the bottom of the page.


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