Tracking Montana's Groundwater: 20 Years of Lessons Learned

Wed, Apr 22, 12:00 pm
126 EPS (Engineering and Physical Sciences) MSU
Speaker Name: 
John LaFave
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology

John LaFave is the program manager of the Ground Water Assessment Program at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been with the Bureau of Mines since 1993.  He will present on some lessons learned from monitoring the state’s groundwater resources over the past 20 years. 


Since 1993, the Montana Ground Water Assessment Program has been monitoring groundwater levels in the State’s major aquifers. The monitoring network consists of more than 900 wells that provide data for unconfined alluvial, deep basin-fill, and deep confined bedrock aquifers. Some of these wells have been consistently monitored since the 1950s.

Groundwater-levels vary seasonally and from year to year in response to changing climatic conditions, nearby groundwater withdrawals, and changing land use. Data from the long-term monitoring network have helped document the effects of: 1) climatic variability on the Madison Limestone aquifer near Great Falls, 2) groundwater development on the Fox Hills–Hell Creek aquifer in eastern Montana, 3) land use impacts on the alluvial aquifers in southwest Montana, and 4) the dynamic adjustment of water-level fluctuations in response to groundwater development in the deep aquifer of the Kalispell valley in northwest Montana.

These examples highlight the importance of long-term, systematic, groundwater-level monitoring to: 1) develop a comprehensive understanding of how aquifers respond to different stresses, and 2) develop meaningful evaluations of the groundwater supply.

Todd Kipfer


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