Scientists to Present Flathead Deep Aquifer Research

Hydrogeologists from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology to visit Flathead Valley Community College

By Tristan Scott
The muddy and swollen Flathead River meanders across farmland on its way to Flathead Lake. Beacon File Photo

When Flathead Valley residents turn on their tap water, they often take it for granted.

But with the exception of those living in Whitefish, most everyone living in the valley relies on groundwater from a series of deep aquifers known as the Flathead Valley deep aquifer.

It’s the most widely used aquifer in the valley, supplying high-capacity municipal and irrigation wells in addition to thousands of domestic wells. The deep aquifer is a thick deposit of gravel and sand, the top of which is 75 to over 400 feet deep and separated from shallow units and the land surface by a thick confining unit.

On April 6, research hydrogeologists John Wheaton and James Rose from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology will present their research on the Flathead Valley’s deep aquifer and discuss the long-term sustainability of the area’s groundwater resources.

The presentation was organized by the Flathead River Commission, a group formed in 2009 to protect and improve water quality within the Flathead River Watershed.

Bob Storer, chairman of the Flathead River Commission, said the presentation is not in response to a recently proposed water bottling plant near Creston, where a company called Montana Artesian Water Co. intends to produce up to 191.6 million gallons of bottled groundwater per year.

But Wheaton said the more the public understands the science of the local resources, “the better we can manage our resources.”

“This presentation is not about a water bottling permit, but it is to help people understand the science and the geology and the hydrogeology in the valley,” Wheaton said. “The system is a prolific, wonderful system, but someone has to make sure they are managing that system properly. We are not those managers, we are messengers.”

He added, “I think it will be helpful for people to understand the issues around the permit.”

The presentation, free and open to the public, will be held April 6 at Flathead Valley Community College, in the Arts and Technology building theater at 6:30 p.m.

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