Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type

Non-Thesis Project


Geological Engineering

Committee Chair

Glenn Shaw

First Advisor

Beverly Karplus Hartline

Second Advisor

John LaFave


Water samples were collected from 33 domestic wells, 2 springs, and 3 streams in the Shields River Basin (Basin) in southwest Montana. Samples were collected in 2013 to describe the chemical quality of groundwater in the Basin. Sampling was done to assess potential impacts to water quality from recent exploratory oil and gas drilling and to establish baseline water quality conditions. Wells were selected in areas near and away from oil and gas drilling and in areas susceptible to contamination. Water samples from surface water sites were collected in October to characterize base flow conditions. Physical characteristics of the land surface, soils, and shallow aquifers were used to assess groundwater susceptibility to contamination from the land surface. This analysis was completed using GIS. Samples were analyzed for major ions, trace metals, water isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen. A subset (24) of samples were analyzed for tritium and organic constituents (GRO, DRO, BTEX, methane, ethylene, and ethane). One sample exceeded the human health drinking water standard for selenium. Dissolved methane and ethylene gas were detected in six samples at concentrations less than 0.184 milligrams per liter. Three locations were resampled in 2014, and no methane or ethylene was detected. Shallow groundwater and streams are generally calcium- or sodium-bicarbonate type water with total dissolved solids concentration less than 300 milligrams per liter. Some wells produce either sodium-chloride or sodium-sulfate type water suggesting slower flow paths and more rock-water interaction. Tritium concentrations suggest that older water (TU< 0.8), recharged prior to the mid-1950’s, is generally sodium type, whereas younger water (TU > 4) is generally a calcium type. Water-quality data from this study were compared to available historic data in the Basin. Additionally, the USGS Produced Waters Geochemical database was queried for chemical data of produced waters from reservoir rocks throughout Montana and the surrounding states. Comparisons to historic and produced water chemical data suggest no impact to shallow groundwater quality from exploratory oil and gas drilling.


A non-thesis project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s in Geoscience: Hydrogeology