Controlled Groundwater Areas in Montana Groundwater Policy


On the Web

DNRC Compact Commission
Compact NPS
Control Ground Water Areas
        Click on Water Supply and Management
            Click on Powder River Controlled Groundwater Area
                Rip up to the top to see many of the controlled groundwater areas in the state.
                    Click on General Information to read about Controlled Groundwater Areas
                    Click on Controlled Groundwater Areas for a good overview.
                            Look through some of the example areas.

Other References

Custer, S.G., Michels, D.E., Sill, W., Sonderegger, J.L., Weight, W., and Woessner, W., 1993,  Recommended boundary for a controlled groundwater area in Montana near Yellowstone National Park.  U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado, 29 p.

Custer, S.G., Michels, D.E., Sill, W.R., Sonderegger, J.L., Weight, W., and Woessner, W.W., 1994, Two strategies for Yellowstone National Park hydrothermal protection in light of scientific uncertainty,  in Marston, R.A. and Hasfurther, V.R. (eds.), Effects of Human-Induced Changes on Hydrologic Systems: American Water Resources Association, Bethesda, MD, p. 821-830.

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation,  1998, Petition for designation of a controlled groundwater area for the Bozeman Solvent Site:  Petition number 41H-104360, 7 p

Montana Legislature, 1993, An act ratifying a reserved water rights compact between the United States National Park Service and the State of Montana; establishing a statutory appropriation and amending section 17-7-502, MCA:  HB 0692/03, p. 55-104.

General Lecture Outline for the role of Controlled Groundwater Areas in Montana Groundwater Policy

General Concept of the Controlled Groundwater Area

    What is a Controlled Groundwater Area?

In a controlled groundwater area, anyone wishing to drill a well must first apply for and receive a Permit for Beneficial Water Use (85-2-508, MCA). This applies to any size and type of  appropriation, including wells to be used at less than 35 gallons per minute (GPM) and less than 10 acre-feet per year. Some controlled groundwater areas have additional restrictions.

    Why may a Controlled Groundwater Area be needed?

How is a Controlled Groundwater Area Formed?

Process for Designation or Rule

Applications of the Controlled Groundwater Area -- Local Examples

Yellowstone National Park Geothermal
Trigger Event -- Drilling of Geothermal Well Across Yellowstone River at LaDuke Hot Springs
Old Faithful Protection Act (Not enacted)
Controlled Groundwater Area -- Protect a national treasure from impacts of development
    Is there potential for a problem
    Where could the problem be?
        Similar systems
            Rhyolite Caldera
            Unique continental shelf sediments
    Where should the boundary be?
        Constant Distance -- Arbitrary and difficult to defend
        Working Group
            Three months
            Paper task
            Draw a boundary with solid hydrogeologic foundation
"If there is the least doubt that an area might be part of the hydrothermal-flow system, part of which is in the Park, that area should be placed in the Controlled Groundwater Area.  Unless you are absolutely certain there is no effect expected in this area, assume there is an effect."
        Hydrogeologic Distance
            Recharge Heating Transmission Discharge
            Base Map -- 1:250,000 boundary drawn with a crayon (low precision but high precision impact on people)
            Surface Hydrothermal Features (Recognize Variability; Mapping Incomplete)
                Isotopes (High elevation or Pleistocene Water?)
                Madison Aquifer above 6200 feet (lowest elevation of known travertine springs)
            Compact does not recognize a reserved water right to ground water outside the Park
            BUT parties agree restrictions are necessary to prevent adverse effect on reserved right in the Park
            Restrictions to extent necessary to prevent adverse effect on reserved water right to groundwater within YNP
                Permit granted if water less than 60 F
                Report Wells
                    Location (quarter quarter quarter quarter section)
                    Ground elevation
                    Well Depth
                    Water Level
                    Flow Rate (maximum pump capacity)
                    Water Temperature
                    Specific Electrical Conductance if greater than 35 gpm
                No beneficial use without a permit
                    5 hydrothermal scientists (NPS, USGS, DNRC, Montana U. System by state geologist, Other 4)
                    Review boundaries
                    Review permits > 60 F
                    Consult on inventory and sampling
                    Review cumulative effects

            Subarea 1 Discharge and Subarea 2 Recharge.
                    <60F, <35 gpm, <10 ac ft per year ----> Notify NPS
                    <60F, >35 gpm,  >10 ac ft per year ---->Existing state law for a permit, Notify NPS, Review
                     > 60F
                            >85F Use not permitted unless user proves water is not hydrothermal
                            >85F Spring Divert Natural Flow OK Review by TOC
                            60-85 F prove diversion of un-enahanced flow
                                          Prove water result of normal geothermal gradient
                                              (0.01646 * depth production zone in feet + 59.6 F
                                          Cl concentration less than 10 ppm
                                          Not completed in Madison Group
                                          No change in character with production
                Meter Water Use
            Technical Oversight Committee (TOC)

Bozeman Solvent Site