Four Corners – near Bozeman

Background and Purpose

 Four Corners location mapSubdivisions, rural residential, and commercial development are transforming agricultural land in the area of this busy community four miles west of Bozeman. Commercial water distribution and wastewater treatment systems are replacing irrigated land and traditional well and septic systems. The possible hydrologic effects of land-use conversion from irrigated agriculture to high-density residential have raised questions concerning both water quality and water availability.

New neighborhoods, utilizing both on-site septic systems and community wastewater systems, are replacing agricultural land around Four Corners. To assist in the appropriate management of water resources in this area, it is important to identify groundwater flow directions (including both horizontal and vertical gradients) and the hydrologic relationship between the aquifer and the river.

Project Scope

In order to provide more accurate descriptions of the geology, hydrologic properties of the aquifers, available water supplies, and the effects of stresses on the groundwater and surface water in the Four Corners area, GWIP has monitored over 35 surface-water locations along the West Gallatin and major tributaries and 60 wells. The main objectives of the Four Corners investigation are to:

  • Determine the extent of alteration to the groundwater system in the Four Corners area over the past 60 years
  • Examine groundwater changes as it relates to land-use conversion
Elk Grove Subdivision near Four Corners

Elk Grove Subdivision near Four Corners. Wheel-line irrigation in foreground.

Project Duration: November 2009 to February 2013

GWIP Personnel Assigned:

Tom Michalek – Project Manager/Hydrogeologist
email Tom

Mary Sutherland – Groundwater Modeler/Hydrogeologist
enail Mary

Project Factsheet (pdf file)

Recent Presentations:
Publications and Reports:
  • MBMG 652 — Hydrogeologic Investigation of the Four Corners Study Area, Gallatin County, Montana, Groundwater Modeliing Report

Project data available here:

In the News:
earthzine—Fostering earth observationand global awarenessInvestigating Groundwater in Montana Informs State Water Policy Decisions — Published 21 February 2016


  • Document the effects of irrigation and canal leakage on groundwater recharge
  • Evaluate likely effects of future changes and development
  • Map aquifer physical characteristics
  • Collaborate with the Gallatin Local Water Quality District, other local agencies, and water users
  • Create a numeric groundwater model of the Four Corners area to identify specific issues related to land-use conversion and the changing groundwater system
Contact information :