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Central Highlands Planning Area Hydrology - Groundwater (West and Central Basins)

Anderson, Freethey and Tucci (1992) divided the alluvial basins in south-central Arizona into five categories based on similar hydrologic and geologic characteristics. One of these, the “Highland Basins”, covers most of the planning area with the exception of the Upper Hassayampa Basin, categorized as a “West Basin”, and the southern half of the Agua Fria Basin, categorized as a “Central Basin”. Highland Basins include: Agua Fria (northern half), Salt River Basin (Salt River Lakes Sub-basin, Salt River Canyon Sub-basin, White River Sub-basin and Black River Sub-basin), Tonto Creek Basin and the Verde River Basin (Big Chino Sub-basin, Verde Valley Sub-basin and Verde Canyon Sub-basin).

West Basins

The Upper Hassayampa Basin was defined by Anderson, Freethey and Tucci (1992) as a “West Basin”.  These basins are generally arid and groundwater inflow and outflow are relatively small with little or no stream baseflow. 

Upper Hassayampa Basin

The main aquifer in the Upper Hassayampa Basin is basin-fill deposits found along valleys between the mountains.  These deposits consist of gravel, sand, silt and clay.  In the mountainous, eastern part of the basin, fractured crystalline and consolidated sedimentary rocks yield small amounts of water to wells.  Near Wagoner, stream deposits overlying crystalline rock are up to 135 feet thick.  North of the Vulture Mountains, in the southwestern part of the basin, the basin fill varies from a few tens of feet thick to over 1,000 feet thick near the middle of the valley.

Salt River

Salt River in the Salt River Basin.  Basins in the Central Highlands Planning Area are part of the Highland, West or Central Basins cateogrized by Anderson, Freethey and Tucci (1992)

Groundwater flow is generally from north to south. Groundwater recharge is estimated at 8,000 AFA and groundwater in storage is estimated to range from 1.0 to 1.1 maf.  Water levels in wells measured in 2003-‘04 varied from 20 feet bls near Wickenburg to 817 feet bls near Congress. Water level change data from wells measured in 1990-‘91 and 2003-‘04 show relatively stable groundwater levels (Figures 5.4-6 and 5.4-7). The median well yield in the basin was 125 gpm reported on registration forms for 61 large (>10-inch) diameter wells (Table 5.4-6). Groundwater quality is generally good although drinking water standards for arsenic and other metals have been equaled or exceeded in wells near Wickenburg.

Central Basins

The southern half of the Agua Fria Basin was categorized by Anderson, Freethey and Tucci (1992) as a “Central Basin”. Central basins are characterized by deep alluvial sediments with small to moderate amounts of mountain front recharge and streamflow infiltration. 

Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant Shoreline, Agua Fria Basin.  The principal aquifers in the Agua Fria Basin are upper basin fill and sedimentary rock (congomerate), which contains the largest volume of groundwater.

Agua Fria Basin (southern half)

The principal aquifers in the Agua Fria Basin are upper basin fill, which occurs under unconfined conditions, and sedimentary rock (conglomerate), which is found throughout the basin and contains the largest volume of groundwater.  Water level data are sparse in this portion of the basin. A domestic well located in unconsolidated sediments near Black Canyon City had a measured water level of 43 feet bls in 2003-‘04 (Figure 5.1-7). Well yields in the unconsolidated sediments may be as high as 1,000 gpm or more although most are less than 500 gpm (Figure 5.1-9).   In Black Canyon City the Water Improvement District obtains water from wells completed in precambrian schist.  The wells yield less than 20 gpm and have water levels ranging from 21 to 23 feet below ground surface (Black Canyon City, 2006).  Arsenic and fluoride concentrations at levels that equal or exceed drinking water standards have been detected in springs and wells near Black Canyon City and at Castle Hot Springs.



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References and Supplemental Reading for the Central Highlands Planning Area Overview

Colorado River Central Highlands Planning Area Download entire Central Highlands Planning Area Atlas in pdf Verde River Lake Pleasant