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Powder River Basin’s underground secrets revealed

Internet users can now explore the geology and quality of water in rock and earth beneath the Northern Powder River Basin in US. Anyone with an online computer and township and range coordinates can call up an image and details of geologic strata via the Wyoming State Geological Survey’s new database.

“It’s one of the biggest projects our agency has ever undertaken,” said Jim Case, senior staff geologist for the survey. “Every step of this process was a pretty significant effort; nothing happened easily.”

The system can call up topography of geological formations, water quality information, coal seam outcrops and other data. A user can also generate a geologic cross section at any location. The project was more than two years in the making and funded by the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

The system will enable developers, water users and regulators to more effectively estimate quality of water before it is brought to the surface, survey officials said. The model was developed by acquiring all available water quality data, determining which coal beds or geologic formations the water was derived from, and then mapping concentrations of materials in the water such as dissolved solids, fluoride, sulfate and others.

Surface water quality information was also acquired and plotted in relation to stream courses.