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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 88-39
Great Plains and Cedar Hills Aquifers--Page 2 of 25

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Purpose of This Report

The Great Plains aquifer system is a vast, largely untapped resource that underlies much of western Kansas. The framework of this aquifer system consists of the Dakota Formation, The Kiowa Formation and Cheyenne Sandstone. Little is known of the hydrogeology and water quality of this aquifer system in Kansas, especially the relationship of the Great Plains aquifer system to other interconnecting aquifers. Recently, the Kansas Corporation Commission has become concerned that disposal of oil-field brines into the Cedar Hills Sandstone may be inducing upward migration of saline waters and disposed oil-field brines into usable shallow aquifers containing fresh and usable waters. This injection horizon occurs just below the Great Plains aquifer system in much of the area.

To address these concerns, the Kansas Geological Survey initiated a study of the Great Plains and Cedar Hills aquifer systems in an eight county area of central Kansas. This investigation was conducted to determine the hydrogeology and water quality of these aquifers and to identify areas of upward migration of naturally occurring and oil-field brines from the Cedar Hills Sandstone into the shallower freshwater aquifers. In order to accomplish these objectives:

  1. the results of previous geologic and hydrogeologic investigations of the Great Plains and Cedar Hills aquifers were collected and analyzed to obtain stratigraphic, hydrogeologic and hydrochemical information;
  2. maps were prepared to show the top configuration and thickness of geologic units in the study area based on the examination of geophysical well logs, well cuttings and outcrops;
  3. several multiple completion monitoring wells were constructed to obtain water chemistry and hydrologic information vertically across the Great Plains and Cedar Hills aquifers; and
  4. water level data and water samples were collected from wells, springs, and surface waters to define the present-day water flow and determine the origin of chemical constituents of waters in the Great Plains and Cedar Hills aquifers in the study area.

This report is a summary of the results of that investigation and presents some preliminary conclusions concerning the hydrogeology and water chemistry of these very complex aquifers in the eight county area. The conclusions drawn from this investigation should be considered preliminary. Several unanswered questions remain to be explored. These are listed under Future Research Needs (11.0). It is important to note that many of these questions are fundamental to our understanding of the movement of waters in these rocks and bear significantly on questions of water quality and interconnection between the Cedar Hills and Great Plains aquifers.

1.2 Geographic Extent of the Study Area

The study area is located in the Smoky Hills and the High Plains physiographic provinces in central Kansas and covers all or parts of Russell, Ellis, Barton, Rush, Rooks, Osborne, Graham, and Trego counties (Figure 1). Included within the study area are portions of the Smoky Hill, Saline, Solomon, Wet Walnut, and Arkansas River drainage basins. The largest population centers in the study area are Hays and Russell located in Ellis and Russell counties, respectively.

Figure 1. Location and extent of the study area

1.3 Acknowledgements

The authors wish to express their appreciation to the following agencies and individuals who helped to make this report possible. Our appreciation is given to the Kansas Corporation Commission, especially the District 6 office in Hays, and the Interagency Dakota Technical Committee who provided us with guidance and data. Appreciation is also given to Bill Bryson and Don Butcher who helped us over rough spots in the work and provided much-needed moral support. Within KGS many individuals contributed their expertise and talent to the collection of data in the field and laboratory, and the assembly of this document. The authors wish to acknowledge Larry Hathaway, Karmie Galle, and Bud Waugh of the Analytical Services Section, Joe Anderson of Exploration Services, Renate Hensiek of Graphic Arts and Anna Corcoran of the Geohydrology Section. Finally, a debt of gratitude is owed our administration who helped smooth some of the bureaucratic wrinkles that developed between agencies and kept the project afloat.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Dakota Project
Original document dated December, 1988
Electronic version placed online April 1996
Scientific comments to P. Allen Macfarlane
Web comments to webadmin@kgs.ku.edu