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Geohydrology of Cowley County

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Ground Water

Principles of Occurrence

The rocks and surficial deposits that form the crust of the earth are not solid throughout but contain many openings, called voids or interstices. It is in these spaces that water is found beneath the surface of the earth and it is from them that water is recovered through wells and springs. There are many types of rocks, and they differ greatly in the number, size, and arrangement of their interstices and, therefore, in their water-bearing properties.

The interstices of rocks in Cowley County range in size from pores of microscopic dimensions to openings. several inches in width. These can be divided into primary and secondary interstices. Primary, or original, interstices, are the pore spaces between the rock grains and were formed during the deposition of the rocks. Secondary interstices are the joints, open bedding planes, and solution channels that were developed by the different processes that affected the rock after deposition. In Cowley County all the water-bearing rocks are of sedimentary origin and contain both primary and secondary interstices.

The amount of water that can be stored in any rock depends upon the porosity of that rock. Porosity is expressed as the percentage of the total volume of the rock that is occupied by interstices. When all the interstices in a rock are filled with water, the rock is said to be saturated. The amount of water that a saturated rock will yield to the force of gravity is known as the specific yield. The amount of water a rock can hold is determined by its porosity, but the amount of water that the rock can yield to wells is determined by its specific yield. The rate at which a rock will yield water to a well is determined by its permeability, i. e., its ability to transmit water under a hydraulic gradient, which is the measured rate at which a rock will transmit water through a given cross section under a given loss of head per unit of distance. Some beds of clay or shale may be porous, but because the interstices are small and poorly connected, they transmit little or no water, and the rock may be regarded as virtually impermeable. Rocks differ greatly in their degree of permeability, according to the number, size, and interconnection of their interstices.


Water in the open pores or interstices of the rocks below the surface of the earth, in the zone that is completely saturated, is called ground water. In Cowley County, ground water is derived from precipitation, in the form of rain or snow, which falls on the county or on nearby areas. Part of the precipitation leaves the area as surface runoff discharged by streams, part evaporates, and part is transpired by vegetation into the atmosphere. The part that escapes direct surface runoff, evaporation, and transpiration moves slowly downward through the soil and underlying strata until it reaches the zone of saturation. After reaching the ground-water body, the water percolates slowly through the rocks in a direction determined by the geology, topography, and geologic structure, until it is discharged through wells and springs, or by evaporation and transpiration in areas where the water table is. relatively near the land surface, or is discharged into a stream or other body of water.

When the upper surface of the zone of saturation is in a permeable rock, this surface is called the water table, and the water is under water-table conditions. If the upper surface is in an impermeable rock, water will rise in a drill hole above the level of the saturated permeable rock, and the water is then under artesian conditions. The level at which water stands in an open hole under artesian conditions is not a water table but is a piezometric surface. In Cowley County ground water occurs under both artesian and water-table conditions.

Artesian Conditions

In much of the eastern two-thirds of Cowley County, where the interbedded limestones, sandstones, and shales of Permian and Pennsylvanian age crop out, the ground water generally occurs under artesian conditions. No artesian wells flow in this area, but the hydrostatic pressure in many wells is sufficient to raise the water above the point at which it is first encountered in the well.

Water entering permeable zones along the outcrop moves downdip in the aquifer. Where impermeable rock overlies the aquifer, the water is confined, and a pressure head is built up in the aquifer. When the aquifer is tapped by a well, the water in the well will rise above the point it which it was encountered to a point determined by this pressure head.

The many structurally low areas in the surface and near-surface rocks in Cowley County are favorable areas for the occurrence of artesian water. Wells drilled there will yield more water and will be more dependable than wells drilled in surrounding structurally high areas. Wells under some artesian head and more productive than wells elsewhere in these rocks were observed in the synclinal areas on the east sides of the Winfield and the Dexter Anticlines.

The Water Table and Movement of Ground Water

The water table is not a plane surface but is a sloping surface in which are irregularities caused by differences in permeability of water-bearing materials, by unequal additions to or withdrawals of water from the aquifer, and by topographic features.

Plate 2 shows the location and depth to water of wells and test holes for which data are given in Table 11 or in the logs at the end of the report. Plate 3B shows the location of wells and test holes in unconsolidated deposits associated with Arkansas River drainage, the altitude of the water table, and contours on the water table. No attempt was made to draw water-table contours in the area of outcrop of Permian and Pennsylvanian rocks, because in parts of the area the water is under artesian head and in other parts of the area the water table is discontinuous.

The water table is not stationary, but fluctuates in response to additions to and withdrawals of water from storage. Figure 5 shows the hydrographs of three wells over a period of about 6 years. The monthly precipitation and the cumulative departure from the long-term mean precipitation also are shown. These wells are in terrace deposits associated with Arkansas River. Fluctuations of the water level in these wells correlate with precipitation, the water rising sharply after periods of excessive precipitation and declining during periods of deficient precipitation. Other factors, such as heavy pumping, evaporation and transpiration, and discharge into streams, also cause declines in the water table.

Figure 5--Hydrographs of three wells, precipitation at Winfield, long-term monthly mean, and cumulative departure from long-term mean precipitation.

Comparison of water level in 4 wells to precipitation received.

Direction of movement of the water may be determined from the water-table contours on Plate 3B. Water moves at a right angle to the contour at any given point. In the area north of T. 34 S. water moves generally southwestward toward Arkansas River; however, in sec. 13, 24, and 25, T. 33 S., R. 3 E., a low ground-water divide causes the water east of this divide to move eastward toward Walnut River. South of T. 33 S. the water moves directly toward the streams in the valley areas, and in the extreme southwestern part of the county it moves east-southeastward.

The spacing of contours on the water-table map may be an indication of the relative permeability of the water-bearing material, but other factors such as topography, recharge, and discharge also affect the spacing. The close spacing of contours just west of Winfield indicates a steep slope of the water table due to low permeability and topography. In this area the water-bearing deposits are of Kansan age and they contain a larger percentage of fine material than the younger, lower terrace materials. Also, the closely spaced contours near the northeast corner of sec. 29, T. 32 S., R. 3 E., are near the scarp of the Illinoisan terrace; here too the steep slope of the water table is the result of low permeability and the topography. The Wisconsinan terrace deposits near the foot of the Illinoisan terrace scarp are composed generally of finer materials, which were derived chiefly from slope wash, than those of the Wisconsinan terrace deposits nearer the river.

Recharge of Ground Water

The addition of water to the ground-water reservoir is known as ground-water recharge. In Cowley County the principal source of recharge is precipitation that falls directly on the county. Some water enters the county by subsurface movement from adjacent areas, and some is received from influent streams.

Recharge from Precipitation

The mean annual precipitation in Cowley County is 31.27 inches, but only a small part of this amount reaches the ground-water reservoir. A small part of the precipitation in Cowley County becomes direct runoff into the streams, part infiltrates into the soil and becomes soil moisture, and part is discharged through evaporation and transpiration. The small remainder moves downward to the zone of saturation to become ground water. The rate of precipitation, the type of soil or surface, and the character of the underlying rocks all affect the rate and quantity of recharge.

Except for a small area just northwest of Arkansas City where the surface is very sandy, the best area for recharge in Cowley County is in the alluvium and Wisconsinan terrace deposits in the Arkansas River valley. The sandy soils and permeable underlying materials are favorable for ground-water recharge, whereas less permeable silts and clays in the older terrace materials prevent much recharge.

The effect of precipitation on the water table is shown in Figure 5. Well 32-3-19abc2 is in Wisconsinan terrace deposits and wells 32-3-21ccc and 33-4-19adb2 are in Illinoisan deposits. Parts of the hydrographs correlate with the precipitation and show the response of the water table to recharge of water to and discharge (natural and by pumping) from the aquifer.

Permian and Pennsylvanian rocks have a wide range of geologic, structural, and topographic conditions and hence diverse recharge conditions. Recharge is very low in areas underlain by thick shale, but conditions are favorable for recharge where limestone or sandstone lies at the surface. Chert-bearing limestone is at or near the surface in large areas and receives much recharge through fractures and joints. Fluctuations in the discharge of many perennial springs and the rejuvenation of wet-weather springs during periods of precipitation indicate a considerable amount of recharge in these rocks. Some sinkholes in the upper part of the Barneston Limestone probably were caused by solution. Precipitation entering these sinkholes moves downward through solution channels and fractures and is discharged by springs in the same general vicinity. The flow of many of these springs fluctuates considerably in direct response to the precipitation. This response to precipitation is so rapid in some springs that the issuing water becomes turbid soon after a heavy rain.

Recharge from Adjacent Areas

Subsurface movement of water from outside the county is a relatively unimportant source of recharge to the ground-water reservoir in Cowley County. Some water moves across the west border, in the high upland area, into the southwestern part of the county, and some moves toward Arkansas River from the west into west-central Cowley County. Almost no water moves across the north or south borders of the county, because the dip of the strata is about parallel with the county boundaries. Precipitation on the outcrops of sandstone in the Wabaunsee and Admire, Groups east of Cowley County moves downdip, and part of this may eventually enter the county, but the quantity is probably small because the permeability of the sandstone is low.

Recharge from Streams

During periods of high water in Arkansas River, some water is contributed to the aquifer from the stream. This type of recharge is temporary in that as soon as the stage of the stream drops below the level of the water in the aquifer, the direction of movement of the water is reversed, and discharge into the stream begins. A small part of this recharge is utilized by wells before the rest is discharged back into the streams. Streams crossing permeable beds of Permian and Pennsylvanian rocks that dip away from the streams contribute water to these beds. This water moves downdip to the ground-water reservoir and may be recovered by wells or may be discharged farther downdip. The amount of recharge to the Permian and Pennsylvanian rocks in Cowley County is not large.

Discharge of Ground Water

Ground water is discharged in Cowley County by evaporation and transpiration, by seepage into streams, by subsurface movement to adjacent areas, and by springs and wells. The rate of natural discharge depends greatly on the stage of the water table and on the season of the year. Local differences in geology and topography cause more water to be discharged in some parts of the county than in others. At present only a small part of the ground-water discharge is by wells, but the amount is increasing almost annually.

Discharge by Evaporation and Transpiration

More ground water is discharged in Cowley County by evaporation and transpiration than by all other means combined. Ground water is discharged by direct evaporation in nearly all the valleys, where the water table is near the surface, and from seeps along the steep slopes of the valley walls. Much ground water is transpired by plants in the valley areas. In the Arkansas River valley the roots of nearly all. plants penetrate the zone of saturation or the capillary fringe. In the upland areas,, where the water table is relatively deep or discontinuous, few of the plants tap the ground-water reservoir.

Discharge by Seeps and Springs

Much ground water is discharged through seeps and springs, chiefly along valley walls adjacent to upland areas. A part of the water thus discharged is evaporated directly to the atmosphere and part is transpired by plants during the growing season. Any water that is not evaporated or transpired flows into streams and may leave the county as surface runoff. After the growing season, the amount of streamflow increases, as the ground water that has previously been intercepted by vegetation now discharges into the stream.

Discharge by Subsurface Movement

Discharge of ground water through subsurface movement into adjacent areas is relatively unimportant in Cowley County. The, water-table contours (Pl. 3B) indicate only one area in which water moves out of the county. In this area, along the west line of T. 31 S., water moves toward Arkansas River before the river enters Cowley County.

The north and south borders of the county nearly parallel the westerly dip of the strata, and little water moves in or out of the county along these borders. Along the east border of the county, water moves down the westward dip of the strata into the county.

Discharge by Wells

The preceding discussion considers the natural discharge of ground water, which is the way in which most of the discharge from the county takes place. The rest of the water that is discharged is by wells, and this method is discussed under the subject of recovery and utilization of ground water. The importance of discharge through wells will become greater with the increase in the use of water for irrigation and for industrial, public, and domestic purposes.

Recovery of Ground Water

When a well is standing idle, static equilibrium exists between the water in the well and the water outside the well. When water is withdrawn from the well, a difference in head is created between the water in the well and the water outside. The water table in the vicinity of the well develops a cone of depression (Fig. 6), which is deepest at the wall of the well and extends some distance from the well. The greater the pumping rate in the well, the greater the drawdown of the water level.

Figure 6--Diagrammatic section of a well that is being pumped, showing its drawdown, cone of depression, and radius of influence.

Pumping from well draws down water level close to well.

The specific capacity of a well is its rate of yield per unit of drawdown, and it usually is expressed as the yield in gallons per minute per foot of drawdown. The specific capacity of a well may be used in predicting the approximate drawdown in a well at various rates of pumping. If the specific capacity of a well is lower than that of nearby wells, it may be an indication of improper screening, insufficient development of the well, or partial plugging of the screen. The character of the water-bearing material determines the specific capacity of a properly constructed well. Large yields will be obtained from homogeneous, coarse-grained material, and smaller yields will be obtained from finer-grained materials.

Several types of wells are used to obtain water supplies in Cowley County. The type of well depends on the use for which the well is intended, the geologic materials to be penetrated, the depth to water, and the depth to which the well is to be constructed or drilled. In the following paragraphs the several types of wells are described briefly.

Dug wells--Dug wells are generally large-diameter wells excavated with hand tools or power equipment. The wells dug with hand tools penetrate the aquifer for only a short distance below the water table. Few dug wells are used in Cowley County in the areas underlain by Pleistocene deposits, but in upland areas in the county, which are underlain by stratified deposits of limestone and shale from which only small yields can be obtained, many of the wells are dug to provide the additional storage space needed because of the slow rate of infiltration.

Driven wells--Driven wells are small-diameter wells consisting of 1 1/4- to 2-inch pipe having a screen attached to the bottom. The pipe is driven into the aquifer far enough that the screen is below the water table. Use of a driven well is limited to areas underlain by unconsolidated materials in which the water table is not more than about 25 feet below the surface. Many wells have been driven in the alluvium and terrace deposits in the Arkansas River valley.

Drilled wells--Most wells in Cowley County are drilled wells. Constructed with either percussion or rotary drilling machines, these wells range in diameter from about 4 inches to 36 inches. Decision as to the diameter of a well to be drilled is based chiefly on the quantity of water needed. Wells in unconsolidated deposits must be cased and screened, but wells in consolidated deposits may have only a short string of casing in the upper part of the well to seal out surface contamination. Most domestic and stock wells in the county range in diameter from 5 to 8 inches, and their yields range from only a few gallons an hour to as much as 50 gallons a minute. Irrigation, industrial, and public-supply wells have larger diameters and may yield as much as 1,000 gpm.

Horizontal wells or infiltration galleries--Horizontal wells or infiltration galleries are constructed by sinking a vertical shaft from which one or more perforated pipes or screens are extended laterally. Water entering these horizontal pipes flows into the shaft, from which it is pumped. The laterals, which may extend several hundred feet from the shaft, can be forced into the aquifer from the shaft or can be laid in open trenches, which are backfilled with permeable materials. To induce infiltration from streams, one or more laterals are extended under the stream. In installations away from streams, the laterals may extend in all directions from the vertical shaft. Pumping large quantities of water from such installations lowers the water table much less than would pumping of the same volume from an ordinary vertical well.

In Cowley County this type of well construction could be used in thin permeable gravels near the base of the Illinoisan terrace deposits to obtain larger yields than can be obtained from a vertical well. The terrace deposits in the Arkansas River valley are relatively thin, and over much of the area the water in the basal part is of poor quality. A horizontal well in which the laterals extended from the central shaft at a depth only a short distance below the water table would yield larger quantities of water than a vertical well to the same depth. Water moves into a pumped well from all directions, and hence the poor-quality water moves upward into such a well. The terrace deposits are stratified, however, so the horizontal permeability is greater than the vertical permeability, and hence the upward movement of water having a greater density would be retarded. Proper setting of the laterals and regulated pumping would insure that a horizontal well would skim off the upper, good-quality water in the aquifer.

Utilization of Ground Water

In Cowley County, ground water is used chiefly for domestic, stock, and public supplies. Some water is used for irrigation, but irrigation is not practiced extensively in the county. Most industries use water from municipal supplies, but a few industries have their own supplies.

Domestic and Stock Supplies

Nearly all the domestic and stock water supplies in rural areas are obtained from privately-owned wells. In the valley areas these supplies are obtained principally from driven or drilled wells. In the upland areas the supplies are obtained from dug or drilled wells. In some upland areas where adequate water supplies are difficult to obtain, cisterns are used to catch rainwater to supplement the ground water, and at many places in the county ponds have been constructed for stock water.

Public Supplies

Seven public water-supply systems obtain their water in Cowley County. Two other cities formerly obtained water from within the county, but now obtain their supply from Sumner County.

Arkansas City--Arkansas City, the largest city in Cowley County, built its first public water supply in 1885. This supply was obtained from wells in the alluvial deposits in Arkansas River valley in the southwestern part of the city. Later wells were drilled in the valley at the south edge of the city near Summit Street. In 1915, two wells in this area provided 500,000 gpd. In 1918, four wells, 42 feet deep, supplied an average of 1.25 mgd. In 1932 the average daily pumpage from the four wells was about 2 mgd. The quality of the water deteriorated from 1912 to 1933, however; the water contained about 119 ppm of chloride in 1912 and 750 to 950 ppm in 1933. The old wells were therefore abandoned, and eight new wells were drilled west of Arkansas River. These wells range in depth from 35 to 40 feet and are equipped with 750-gpm turbine pumps. The average pumpage in 1958 was about 2 mgd, or about 2,200 acre-feet per year. Storage is provided by a 2.6-million-gallon reservoir at the pumping station and two 250,000-gallon elevated steel tanks. The water is chlorinated and treated with Calgon. Fluoride salts are added to raise the fluoride content to about 1 ppm.

Atlanta--The Atlanta water supply is obtained from an improved spring (30-6-28bdd1) about 2 miles south of the city in the Florence Limestone Member of the Barneston Limestone. The average pumpage is about 6,000 gallons a day or about 6 acre-feet per year. Well 30-628bdd2, which is adjacent to the spring, yielded about 1,000 gpd at a depth of 240 feet. The well was deepened to 300 feet, where it obtained salt water and was abandoned. Storage is provided by a 35,000-gallon elevated steel tank. The water is chlorinated at the spring pumphouse but receives no other treatment.

Bolton Township Water Cooperative--The Bolton Township Water Cooperative serves a suburban and rural area south and southeast of Arkansas City. In much of this area, ground water of usable quality is difficult to find in adequate quantity for domestic and stock use. The Cooperative obtains its water supply from one well (35-4-6bdc) in terrace deposits in the Arkansas River valley just south of Arkansas City. The well is 52 feet deep and is pumped at a rate of 225 gpm directly into the mains. The Cooperative serves 121 customers on 19 miles of pipeline. Storage and pressure are supplied by a 100,000-gallon elevated steel tank located in the upland area near the southwest corner of the Cooperative service area. The water is hard; it is chlorinated at the well but receives no other treatment. The annual pumpage is about 13 acre-feet.

Burden--For about 50 years the water supply for Burden has been obtained from an improved spring (31-6-28caa) in the Florence Limestone located in a branch of Silver Creek about 1 1/2 miles west of the city. In years of normal rainfall the supply is adequate, but in years of drought the yield declines, and water is shipped in to supplement the supply. Average pumpage is about 35,000 gallons a day or about 40 acre-feet per year. The water is chlorinated at the spring pumphouse and, although it is hard, it receives no other treatment.

Dexter--The water supply for Dexter is obtained from a dug well (33-6-13bcd) about half a mile west of the city in the terrace deposits adjacent to Grouse Creek. The well is 36 feet deep and 40 inches in diameter. In past years the city has had considerable difficulty with salt-water contamination of its water supply. Many oil and gas wells have been drilled in and adjacent to the city, and some of the wells were not properly plugged when abandoned. Brine-disposal ponds, although not now permitted, have in the past contributed salt water to the aquifer. In 1946 the chloride content of the water in well 33-6-13bcd was 1,600 ppm, and in June 1958 the concentration was 870 ppm. The average pumpage is about 25,000 gallons a day or about 27 acre-feet per year. The water is chlorinated at the well, and storage is provided by a 100,000-gallon elevated steel tank.

Geuda Springs--Part of the city of Geuda Springs is in Cowley County and part is across the county line in Sumner County. The city has had no public water supply since about 1950 and the residents have been using private wells. A public supply system for the city was constructed in 1918, and water was obtained from one dug well (34-3-7cba) about a quarter of a mile east of the city. The well was 52 feet deep and 8 feet in diameter. Water was obtained from porous zones in the lower part of the Wellington Formation. Storage was provided by two underground steel pressure tanks having a total capacity of about 8,000 gallons. Pressure in the mains was maintained by the pressure head in the tanks. The well was equipped with a centrifugal pump of about 175-gpm capacity, but the yield of the well was about 5 to 10 gpm. The depth to water in the well was 40 feet in 1919 and 43.5 feet in 1945. This well was abandoned shortly after 1950 because of contamination. The average daily pumpage at that time was 6,000 gallons.

Oxford--The city of Oxford is in Sumner County but it obtains its water supply from Cowley County. The first public supply was provided in 1914 and was obtained from shallow wells in the western part of the city. Water from these wells was good and had a chloride content of about 20 ppm, but yields were inadequate, and in 1920 a well was drilled in the alluvium on the east side of Arkansas River. This well was 46 feet deep and was pumped at a rate of 200 gpm, but the well became contaminated with salt water. In 1937 the city drilled a new well 1 1/4 miles east, in Cowley County. In 1958 Oxford obtained its water supply from two wells at this location. These wells are 37.5 feet deep and 18 inches in diameter and are pumped at about 500 gpm. Drawdown at this pumping rate is about 3 feet. The average pumpage is about 80,000 gallons a day or about 90 acre-feet per year. Water is pumped directly into the mains, and pressure and storage are provided by an elevated steel tank of 55,000-gallon capacity. The water is chlorinated at the wells and receives no other treatment.

Udall--The first public water-supply system for Udall was constructed prior to 1905. Wells drilled in and near the townsite obtained water from the lower part of the Wellington Formation and from the Nolans Limestone. In 1929 a well was dug in the southern part of the townsite. This well was 60 feet deep and obtained water from the Nolans Limestone. It yielded about 60 gpm during years of normal precipitation, but in periods of drought the yield decreased and the quality deteriorated. In 1954 two wells were drilled in terrace deposits adjacent to Arkansas River in Sumner County, about 3 1/2 miles west of the city. These wells are about 30 feet deep and yield about 130 gpm each. In 1959 all wells near the townsite had been abandoned. The average pumpage is about 60,000 gallons a day or about 65 acre-feet per year. Storage and pressure are provided by an elevated steel tank of 50,000-gallon capacity. The water is chlorinated at the wells but receives no other treatment.

Winfield--The original public water supply for the city of Winfield was obtained from Walnut River at the west edge of the city. About 1916, wastes from oil fields and allied industries began polluting the stream, making the water unsuitable for domestic use. By June 1918, eight wells had been drilled about 4 miles west of the city. The wells were about 30 feet deep. Two additional wells were drilled in 1921, at which time the average daily pumpage was about 1.25 mgd. By 1923 the yields of these wells were inadequate to supply the water requirements of the city, and this well field was abandoned. Wells were then drilled in the alluvium of Arkansas River about 9 miles west of the city. Six wells were drilled in three groups of two wells each. The wells in each pair were spaced about 150 feet apart and were pumped by one centrifugal pump located in a pit midway between them. The four east wells were 38 feet deep and the two west wells were 46 feet deep; all were cased with 25-inch concrete casings. The yield from each pair of wells was about 1,000 gpm.

In 1937 the chloride content of the water in the wells increased. The largest increase was in the middle group of wells (32-3-18dcc) from 507 ppm in 1938 to 12,000 ppm in 1939. The source of these chlorides was traced to disposal ponds and leaky casing in a disposal well south of the well field. These sources of contamination were eliminated, and the chloride content of the well water declined. In 1940 a new well was drilled a quarter of a mile north of well 32-3-18dcc. This well (32-318dbc) is 48 feet deep and yields 1,000 gpm. Continued difficulties with salt water in the well field caused the city to drill six new wells about 3 miles south of the old well field in sec. 5 and 6, T. 33 S., R. 3 E. The northernmost well in this group was never equipped with a pump, because of salt-water intrusion during the time between the drilling of test holes and the drilling of the well. In 1959 the chloride concentration in other wells in this field was increasing, but no additional wells were abandoned.

In 1955, wells 32-3-24bdc and 32-3-25bdc were drilled. These wells obtained water from cavernous Nolans and Winfield Limestones at a depth of 165 feet and 113 feet respectively. Yield of each of these wells was about 1,000 gpm, but because the sulfate content of the water in well 32-3-24bdc was excessive, only well 32-3-25bdc has been used.

The average pumpage by the city is about 1.5 mgd, or about 1,700 acre-feet per year. Water is stored in a concrete reservoir at the water plant, which has a capacity of about one million gallons, and a concrete reservoir on a hill in the eastern part of the city, which has a capacity of about two million gallons. The water is very hard at times and is chlorinated and treated with Calgon at the water plant.

Industrial Supplies

The industrial use of water in Cowley County is considerably less than the domestic or municipal use. Most industries depend on the public supplies for their water, but a few industries obtain part of their water from their own wells. The largest industrial user in the county is the Anderson-Prichard Oil Co. refinery in Arkansas City, and it obtains its supply from three wells in the Arkansas River valley, in southeast Arkansas City. The wells are pumped continuously at a rate of about 300 gpm each, or about 1,400 acre-feet annually. The water is used as boiler-feed water and for cooling.

The Maurer Neuer Packing Co. has one well to provide water for cooling. This well is 48 feet deep and is pumped intermittently at a rate of about 300 gpm; the annual pumpage is probably about 100-acre feet.

Wells at the former Army Air Force base (Strother Field) about 6 miles north of Arkansas City now provide water for industrial use. The base facilities are owned jointly by the cities of Arkansas City and Winfield, which lease the buildings and hangars to several industries. When the Air Force base was operated by the Army, the water supply was obtained from six wells about 40 feet deep. The wells were equipped with turbine pumps and their yields ranged from 97 to 188 gpm. In 1958 only one well was in operation. This well (33-4-18ddc) is pumped intermittently to supply the industries located at the former air base. The average pumpage is less than 10,000 gallons a day, and the annual pumpage is probably about 10 acre-feet.

Other smaller industries in the county obtain a part of their supply from privately-owned wells, but pumpage from these wells is small.

Irrigation Supplies

Irrigation has not been practiced extensively in Cowley County. There was some irrigation in the Arkansas River valley from 1920 to 1940, but most of the projects were operated for only a few years. Since 1940 other irrigation projects have been carried on for short periods. In 1958 there were 11 irrigation plants in operation in the county, most of which had been built during the drought years from 1952 through 1956.

Thirteen irrigation plants were visited during the investigation. Eleven were in operation, one was partly dismantled, and another (32-3-34abb2) had been abandoned because of salt-water contamination. Of the operating irrigation plants, six were in the Arkansas River valley and obtained water from Wisconsinan terrace deposits or alluvium. Their yields ranged from 500 to 1,000 gpm. Four wells obtained water from Illinoisan deposits east of the Arkansas River valley. These wells have relatively low yields; the water is pumped into ponds from which it flows over the land to be irrigated. One well (34-4-20dbc) is in terrace deposits adjacent to Walnut River, and it yields about 300 gpm. The combined yield of the irrigation wells in the county is about 6,200 gpm, or about 1,000 acre-feet per year, and the total acreage irrigated is about 700 acres.

Water in Storage

Saturated thickness of the Pleistocene deposits in the Arkansas River valley, Walnut River valley, and adjacent areas was mapped (Pl. 3C). The volume of saturated material in the Pleistocene deposits was computed from this map. A specific yield of 20 percent was applied to the volume of sediments in the Wisconsinan terrace deposits and alluvium in the Arkansas River valley, and a specific yield of 10 percent was applied to the other saturated deposits, which are less permeable. The area underlain by and the volume of water in storage in Wisconsinan terrace deposits and alluvium in Arkansas River valley are given in Table 4, and similar information for the Illinoisan, Kansan, and Walnut River terrace deposits are given in Table 5.

Table 4--Area underlain by, and volume of water in storage in, Wisconsinan terrace deposits and alluvium in Arkansas River valley

Township Area
Water in storagea
T. 31 S., R. 3 E. 3,770 13,000
T. 32 S., R. 3 E. 7,630 33,000
T. 33 S., R. 3 E. 10,120 45,000
T. 34 S., R. 3 E. 9,700 34,000
T. 34, 35 S., R. 4, 5 E. 6,250 32,000
Total 37,470 157,000
a. Based on a specific yield of 20 percent.

Table 5--Area underlain by, and volume of water in storage in, the Illinoisan, Kansan, and Walnut River terrace deposits

Township Area
Water in storagea
T. 31 S., R. 3 E. 5,700 5,000
T. 32 S., R. 3 E. 11,190 18,000
T. 33 S., R. 3 E. 10,160 18,000
T. 33 S., R. 4 E. 9,750 18,000
T. 34 S., R. 4 E. 4,800 7,000
T. 34, 35 S., R. 3 E. 9,100 15,000
Total 50,700 81,000
a. Based on a specific yield of 10 percent.

In the deposits listed in Table 5, the quantity of water in storage is about 1.6 feet of water per acre, or about the quantity that would be pumped in 1 year if all the acreage underlain by these deposits were irrigated. In the Arkansas River valley the quantity of water in storage is about 4.2 feet per acre, or about 3 years' supply under the same pumping conditions.

Chemical Character of Ground Water

When water comes into contact with the rocks that form the crust of the earth, it dissolves a part of the rock material. The type and composition of the rock through which the water passes thus determines, to a large degree, the chemical character of such ground water. The more soluble minerals are naturally taken into solution more easily and in greater concentration than the less soluble minerals.

The chemical character of ground water in Cowley County is indicated by analyses of 57 samples of water from wells and test holes (Table 6) and by partial analyses of 158 samples (Table 7). Of the 57 complete analyses, 9 are of water from public-supply wells or springs. Five partial analyses are from surface-water samples. Although not all minerals present in the water samples are reported, those that commonly are present in sufficient quantity to affect adversely the quality of the water for domestic, industrial, and irrigation use are reported.

The mineral constituents listed in Table 6 are reported in parts per million (ppm) by weight. One part per million is equivalent to one pound of substance per million pounds of water, or 8.34 pounds of substance per million gallons of water. The concentrations of minerals in the water in equivalents can be computed by multiplying the parts per million by the conversion factors given in Table 8. When expressed in equivalents per million, the sum of the anions is equal to the sum of the cations.

The samples of water from the wells and test holes in Cowley County were analyzed by Howard A. Stoltenberg, chemist in the Sanitary Engineering Laboratory of the Kansas State Board of Health. The analyses give only the dissolved mineral content of the water and do not indicate sanitary conditions.

Table 6--Analyses of water, in parts per million(a), from representative wells, springs, and test holes in Cowley County.

Geologic source Date of
at 180° C)
as sodium
Hardness as CaCO3
30-4-19add 31 Terrace deposits 9-25-1958 57 566 26 1.5 128 25 45 489 48 44 0.0 9.3 422 21
30-6-28dbd1 Spring Barneston Limestone 5-5-1958 57 290 18 .23 80 7.9 14 273 16 12 .2 5.3 232 8
30-8-21cac 42 Bader Limestone 10-2-1958 56 483 19 .26 63 38 68 478 38 20 .1 1.9 313 0
31-3-1abb 123 Barneston Limestone 9-14-1958 55 1,570 14 .07 262 86 127 359 722 150 1.3 28 1,000 710
31-4-18cbb 34 Terrace deposits 9-25-1958 56 621 25 .13 115 21 62 237 96 105 .2 80 374 180
31-6-28caa Spring Barneston Limestone 5-19-1958 56 368 15 .16 105 7.3 17 327 18 12 .1 30 292 24
31-7-10bdd 24 Terrace deposits 10-2-1958 56 422 24 .31 122 12 18 427 19 15 .0 2.2 354 4
31-8-17cdd 75 Bader Limestone 10-2-1958 57 392 14 1.6 17 12 116 306 44 25 .9 12 92 0
32-3-6dcc 37-42 Alluvium 6-5-1944   12,100     1,330 333 2,790 168 46 7,500 .1 5.8 4,700 4,560
32-3-7ddd1 37.5 Terrace deposits 9-13-1954   530 17 .02 97 24 43 317 107 37 .5 12 340 80
32-3-9abb 38-43 Terrace deposits 4-27-1944   342     55 16 52 295 16 22 .2 33 203 0
32-3-18dba 40 Terrace deposits 1-14-1959 56 486 18 .05 99 25 41 373 82 30 .5 4.2 350 44
32-3-21ccc 36-38 Terrace deposits 4-10-1944   269     54 13 33 256 19 18 .5 3.3 188 0
32-2-24bdc 167 Nolans and Winfield Limestones 3-20-1956 58 1,690 14 .13 304 89 108 329 918 94 .8 .9 1,120 850
32-3-32cdd 40 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   468   2.3 77 27 66 403 46 47 .3 1.4 303 0
32-3-32ddc 52 Terrace deposits 9-22-1958 56 382 17 .04 71 17 46 332 24 22 .4 22 247 0
32-3-34abb 32 Terrace deposits 10- 3-1958 57 2,500 21 .12 414 150 288 217 134 1,380 .0 6.6 1,650 1,470
32-4-6ccc 90 Terrace deposits and Barneston Limestone 9-25-1958 56 395 22 .78 82 21 25 299 26 23 .1 49 291 46
32-4-8aaa 100 Doyle Shale 10-3-1958 56 364 14 .05 91 22 16 395 5.3 11 .0 9.7 318 0
32-4-34ccb 30 Terrace deposits 9-26-1958 57 360 14 .12 82 17 26 312 50 15 .3 2.4 274 18
32-5-4aaa 180 Barneston and Wreford Limestones 10-2-1958 56 575 10 .08 126 32 28 390 76 31 .4 80 446 126
32-5-24cbc 140 Barneston Limestone 9-11-1958 56 423 11 2.0 90 29 28 404 48 14 .5 3.6 344 13
32-7-11aaa 120 Wreford Limestone 10-2-1958 56 369 13 1.8 75 30 23 393 26 7 .5 .9 310 0
33-3-5bbb 20 Terrace deposits 8-16-1943   304   1.2 74 15 18 256 53 12 .5 2.3 246 36
33-3-5cac 44 Terrace deposits 1-14-1959 56 1,590 18 .02 312 65 179 248 84 810 .1 1.5 1,040 840
33-3-10ccc 35 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943 57 422   .17 76 22 56 383 42 26 .3 8.4 280 0
33-3-13aaa 47-52 Crete and Loveland Formations 4-15-1944   435     64 21 74 361 56 34 .4 4.9 246 0
33-3-14dda 40 Crete and Loveland Formations 8-20-1943   448   .33 72 20 70 361 74 26 .3 4.4 262 0
33-3-17aaa1 43-47 Terrace deposits 4-3-1944   6,980     558 125 1,940 238 90 4,140 .3 6.6 1,900 1,710
33-3-20dcc 39-44 Terrace deposits 3-28-1944   28,000     1,640 408 8,710 214 140 17,300     5,770 5,590
33-3-25bbb 29-34 Crete and Loveland Formations 3-20-1944   525     72 18 108 427 60 51 .3 2.2 254 0
33-3-34cdd 48 Wellington Formation 8-18-1943   379   .43 75 22 32 321 12 15 .3 62 278 15
33-3-34dcc 45 Wellington Formation 9-22-1958 57 498 17 .04 72 24 78 332 18 92 .2 33 278 6
*33-4-7ddd 30 Winfield Limestone 8-20-1943   650   1.0 116 43 43 306 216 34 .2 44 466 215
*33-4-7ddd 30 Winfield Limestone 9-22-1958 56 796 20 .08 132 46 65 329 291 38 .2 42 518 248
33-4-19adc 41 Crete and Loveland Formations 9-2-1942   560   2.6 95 25 78 349 86 89 .3 10 340 54
33-4-21cdd 33-38 Crete and Loveland Formations 4-17-1944   458     76 25 58 344 82 26 .2 19 292 10
33-4-23ccc2 29 Crete and Loveland Formations 9-26-1958 56 729 23 .06 155 30 58 406 60 128 .1 75 510 177
33-4-30add1 40 Crete and Loveland Formations 8-20-1943   525   .99 69 20 103 368 78 64 .3 5.3 254 0
33-5-33bbb 110 Barneston Limestone 10-2-1958 57 558 13 .56 87 58 31 464 87 13 .5 40 456 76
33-6-1acc 25 Terrace deposits 4-21-1944   581 12 .38 148 23 17 461 42 32 .1 43 464 86
33-6-13bcd 36 Terrace deposits 6-2-1958 58 1,870 15 .13 333 35 325 371 104 870 .1 5.3 975 671
33-7-14adc 100 Bader Limestone 10-2-1958 57 423 14 .08 44 49 49 442 20 17 .3 12 312 0
*34-3-4bbb 29 Terrace deposits 8-18-1943   1,070   .17 161 27 197 254 140 410 .5 8.4 512 304
*34-3-4bbb 29 Terrace deposits 9-22-1958 57 697 16 .24 97 16 135 298 100 167 .5 19 308 64
34-3-7baa 16 Alluvium 8-19-1643   1,400   .38 215 66 162 443 635 80 .6 26 808 445
34-3-23cbb 39-44 Alluvium 4-20-1944   451     94 27 32 312 109 31 .2 2.0 346 90
34-3-26bad2 40 Alluvium 5-26-1959 57 808 17 .4 67 16 205 203 144 255 .6 1.5 233 67
34-4-12bbb 28 Alluvium 9-26-1958 56 373 21 .54 88 10 28 281 23 25 .0 40 260 30
34-4-21dcc 41 Alluvium 9-23-1958 57 459 22 .09 97 19 22 245 46 21 .1 111 320 119
34-4-28aba 242 Barneston Limestone 9-23-1958 56 2,670 10 .22 233 56 600 359 1,190 410 3.0 2.2 812 518
34-4-33ddd 16 Terrace deposits 8-18-1943   595   .09 86 13 121 264 68 170 .3 4.9 268 52
34-4-34ddd 22 Terrace deposits 8-18-1943   991   .22 150 23 191 345 93 352 .2 8.8 468 185
34-8-30 Lot 3 365 Sandstone in Willard and Pillsbury Shales 10-2-1958   838 15 .06 8.2 .9 329 537 33 184 1.5 1.5 24 0
**35-3-1aaa 46-48 Terrace deposits 8-27-1958 48 773 13 .22 78 20 172 200 177 213 .5 1.0 276 112
35-4-2add 42-47 Alluvium 4-20-1944   402     102 20 22 374 49 16 .3 5.8 336 30
35-4-6bdc 52 Alluvium 10-4-1958 56 936 17 .6 91 25 258 232 230 326 .6 .7 330 148
(a) One part per million is equivalent to one pound of substance per million pounds of water or 8.33 pounds per million gallons of water.
(b) Total depth of well except where two numbers are given; 37-42 indicates depth from which sample was pumped.
* Two samples of water from same well on different dates.
** Partial analysis given in Table 7.

Table 7--Partial analyses of water, in parts per million(a), from wells and test holes in Cowley County.

Geologic source Date of
31-3-16cdd 54-56 Terrace deposits 6-16-1957   31
31-3-29dcc 38-43 Terrace deposits 4-29-1944   14
31-3-30ccc 41-43 Terrace deposits 9-8-1955   56,400
43-48 Terrace deposits 5-26-1944   40,700
31-3-30dcc 27-32 Terrace deposits 5-26-1944   23
31-3-31ccc 33-35 Alluvium 6-21-1956   26,200
31-3-31ccd 30 Alluvium 8-21-1943   196
31-3-32bbb 20-22 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 162 26
26-28 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 384 43
31-3-32ddc 18-20 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 116 3,150
31-3-33abb 14-19 Terrace deposits 5-2-1944   3,980
31-4-6bdd 28 Terrace deposits 4-15-1958   512
32-3-5baa 16-18 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 200 66
25-27 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 246 104
32-3-5ccc1 30 Terrace deposits 8-21-1943   11
32-3-5ccc2 30-35 Terrace deposits 5-2-1944   19
32-3-5ccc3 15-17 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 62 63
26-28 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 70 67
32-3-5dcc 29-34 Terrace deposits 5-2-1944   50
32-3-6aaa 11-13 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 38 10
26-28 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 68 20
32-3-6ccc 40-45 Alluvium 6-6-1944   38,000
32-3-7dca Surface   8-10-1956 132 5,310
32-3-8dbb Surface   8-10-1956 166 2,490
32-3-10baa 28-33 Terrace deposits 5-3-1944   6
32-3-17abb 18-20 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 48 16
32-3-17bbb 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 216 57
27-29 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 84 31
33-3-17dcc 9-11 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 28 27
33-3-18abb 15-19 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 78 30
34-36 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 68 58
32-3-18bba 7-9 Alluvium 8-12-1956 78 570
33-35 Alluvium 8-12-1956 122 8,330
32-3-19aaa 16-18 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 56 13
25-27 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 62 16
19-21 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   50
32-3-19abb 36-38 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   1,760
32-3-19abc1 33-35 Terrace deposits 4-7-1944   4,300
32-3-19abc2 37-39 Terrace deposits 4-7-1944   34,800
32-3-19bbb 12-14 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   85
23-25 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   80
45-47 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   290
32-3-19ddd 25 Alluvium 8-21-1943   46
32-3-20dbc 15-17 Terrace deposits 8-11-1956 98 21
32-3-29cdc 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-12-1956 50 51
32-3-30aaa 5-7 Alluvium 8-12-1956 74 37
14-16 Alluvium 8-12-1956 58 20
32-3-30ddd 7-9 Alluvium 8-12-1956 64 19
14-16 Alluvium 8-12-1956 60 21
32-3-31aaa 20 Alluvium 8-20-1943   19
32-3-31dac 14-18 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 52 60
34-36 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 152 485
32-3-31dca 42 Terrace deposits 8-10-1956 142 325
32-3-31dcd 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 36 26
33-35 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 116 365
11-13 Terrace deposits 8-17-1957   23
36-38 Terrace deposits 8-17-1957   2,800
32-3-32ccc2 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 32 28
26-28 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 60 33
32-4-5ccc 27-32 Terrace deposits 5-5-1944   12
32-4-7bba 36-41 Terrace deposits 5-5-1944   31
33-3-3bbb 29-34 Terrace deposits 4-21-1944   31
33-3-5ccc1 12-14 Alluvium 8-13-1956 86 34
14-16 Alluvium 8-17-1957   46
34-36 Alluvium 8-17-1957   332
33-3-5ddc 15-17 Terrace deposits 8-13-1956 32 39
32-34 Terrace deposits 8-13-1956 44 29
33-3-6bab 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 64 235
33-35 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 364 7,770
15-17 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   87
35-37 Terrace deposits 6-25-1957   14,700
33-3-7aaa 30 Alluvium 8-20-1943   64
33-3-8ccc 11-13 Terrace deposits 8-14-1956 68 41
33-3-8dcc 35-40 Alluvium 4-3-1944   4,750
33-3-15aaa 34-39 Terrace deposits 4-4-1944   35
33-3-17aaa2 15-17 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 112 330
33-35 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 1,62 475
33-3-17aaa3 25 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   81
33-3-17bba 19-24 Terrace deposits 4-1-1944   285
33-3-17daa 14-16 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956   68
33-35 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 52 193
33-3-19ccc 20-25 Terrace deposits 4-1-1944   426
33-3-19dcc 33-38 Terrace deposits 3-30-1944   1,680
33-3-20ddc 20 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   115
33-3-21aaa 40 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   12
33-3-21dda 35-40 Terrace deposits 3-27-1944   7,600
33-3-21ddb 19-24 Alluvium 3-27-1944   3,090
33-3-23ccc 11-15 Crete and Loveland
3-22-1944   100
33-3-27dcc 25-30 Crete and Loveland
3-23-1944   6.0
33-3-28bbb 42-47 Terrace deposits 3-27-1944   16,900
33-3-28dbc1 17-19 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 36 122
30-32 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 146 462
33-3-28dbc2 Surface   8-16-1956 168 720
33-3-29cca1 15-17 Alluvium 8-16-1956 182 890
34-36 Alluvium 8-16-1956 146 2,620
33-3-29cca2 Surface   8-16-1956 172 790
33-3-29ddd1 28-30 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 124 324
33-3-29ddd2 21-23 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 114 391
48-50 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 162 1,580
33-3-30aaa 25-30 Terrace deposits 3-30-1944   1,120
33-3-31aaa 16-18 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 176 480
39-41 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 176 13,000
33-3-31add 20 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   248
33-3-31daa 13-15 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 116 740
30-32 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 162 1,220
33-3-32daa 23-25 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 148 343
39-41 Terrace deposits 8-16-1956 208 435
33-3-33abb 15-17 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 44 26
24-26 Terrace deposits 8-15-1956 46 33
33-3-33dcc 23-28 Terrace deposits 3-23-1944   43
33-4-17cbb 48-53 Crete and Loveland
3-16-1944   14
33-4-19aaa 37-42 Crete and Loveland
3-16-1944   13
33-4-29abb 38-43 Crete and Loveland
4-17-1944   56
33-4-30add2 38-43 Crete and Loveland
3-18-1944   64
33-6-12aaa 32 Terrace deposits 8-13-1946   19
34-3-4abb 23-25 Terrace deposits 8-17-1956 68 31
34-3-4dcc 25-27 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 48 40
43-45 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 76 83
34-3-5aab 10-12 Terrace deposits 8-17-1956 136 292
20-22 Terrace deposits 8-17-1956 176 512
35-37 Terrace deposits 8-17-1956 208 5,160
34-3-5add 40-45 Terrace deposits 3-23-1944   1,660
34-3-5bab 12-14 Terrace deposits 8-18-1956 88 298
29-31 Terrace deposits 8-18-1956 148 690
43-45 Terrace deposits 8-18-1956 196 4,950
34-3-5bbb 23-25 Terrace deposits 8-17-1956 144 419
34-3-5caa 21-23 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 178 810
37-39 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 178 9,160
34-3-5dcc1 20 Alluvium 8-20-43   103
34-3-5dcc2 37-42 Terrace deposits 3-24-1944   5,750
34-3-8aaa 19-21 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 178 308
34-36 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 220 1,060
34-3-8acc1 22-24 Alluvium 9-2-1956 642 1,105
34-3-8acc2 Surface   9-2-1956 348 1,580
34-3-8baa 10-12 Alluvium 9-2-1956 198 212
32-34 Alluvium 9-2-1956 196 1,570
34-3-8cdd 15-17 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 1,490 265
34-3-9dad 20 Terrace deposits 8-20-1943   19
34-3-15bbb 26-28 Terrace deposits 6-22-1957   36
34-3-15cdd 34-36 Alluvium 6-22-1957   560
34-3-15dcd 20 Alluvium 8-20-1943   30
34-3-16bbb 15-17 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 198 63
30-32 Terrace deposits 9-2-1956 564 277
34-3-23ccc 19-21 Terrace deposits 6- 5-1957   157
34-3-26add 28-30 Alluvium 6-7-1957   530
34-3-26bab 26-28 Terrace deposits 6-6-1957   960
34-3-26bdc 28-30 Terrace deposits 6-6-1957   650
34-3-35aab 28-30 Terrace deposits 6-7-1957   505
34-3-36bab 22-24 Terrace deposits 6-6-1957   155
34-4-20cab 19-21 Terrace deposits 6-12-1957   302
34-4-30adc 24-26 Terrace deposits 6-12-1957   86
34-4-31aba 21-23 Terrace deposits 6-11-1957   399
*35-3-1aaa 34-36 Terrace deposits 6-8-1957   390
35-4-3ada 31-33 Terrace deposits 6-9-1957   317
35-4-4aad 18-20 Terrace deposits 6-9-1957   157
35-4-5abb 28-30 Alluvium 6-11-1957   610
35-4-5daa 17-19 Terrace deposits 6-8-1957   585
35-5-18bbb 12-14 Terrace deposits 6-9-1957   372
(a) One part per million is equivalent to one pound of substance
per million pounds of water or 8.33 pounds per million gallons of water.
(b) Total depth of well except where two numbers are given;
54-56 indicates depth from which water sample was pumped.
* Complete analysis given in Table 6.

Table 8--Factors for converting parts per million to equivalents per million.

Calcium Ca++ 0.0499
Magnesium Mg++ 0.0822
Sodium Na+ 0.0435
Potassium K+ 0.0256
Carbonate CO3-- 0.0333
Bicarbonate HCO3- 0.0164
Sulfate SO4-- 0.0208
Chloride Cl- 0.0282
Fluoride F-- 0.0526
Nitrate NO3-- 0.0161

Chemical Constituents in Relation to Use

The dissolved solids, hardness, iron, fluoride, nitrate, sulfate, and chloride in the samples of water from Cowley County are summarized in Table 9 and are discussed briefly in the following paragraphs.

Table 9--Summary of dissolved mineral consituents in water in Cowley County.

Range, in
parts per million
of samples
Dissolved Solids
500 or less 27
500 to 1,000 19
more than 1,000 11
50 or less 1
51 to 150 1
151 to 300 20
more than 300 35
0. 1 or less 14
.11 to 0.3 14
.31 to 1. 0 11
more than 1. 0 7
less than 1.0 53
1.0 to 1.5 2
more than 1. 5 1
45 or less 5o
46 to 90 5
91 to 150 1
more than 150 0
50 or less 37
51 to 250 go
more than 250 11
250 or less 128
251 to 500 31
501 to 750 12
751 to 5, 000 27
more than 5,000 17

Dissolved Solids

After water has been evaporated, the residue consists of mineral matter, some organic matter, and water of crystallization. The kind and quantity of minerals in the water determine its suitability for various uses. Water containing less than 500 ppm of dissolved solids generally is satisfactory for domestic use. Water containing more than 1,000 ppm of dissolved solids may contain enough of certain constituents to cause a noticeable taste or to render it unsuitable for use in some other respect.

The dissolved solids in the 57 samples of water from Cowley County ranged from 290 ppm to 28,300 ppm; in 11 samples the concentration exceeded 1,000 ppm.


The hardness of water, the property that generally receives the most attention, is commonly recognized by the effect of the use of soap in the water; the soap does not lather readily and it leaves a curd on the water. Calcium and magnesium cause nearly all the hardness of ordinary water. These constituents are also the active agents in the formation of scale in steam boilers or other containers in which water is evaporated.

The calcium carbonate hardness, the calcium and magnesium, and the noncarbonate hardness of the water samples from Cowley County are given in Table 6. The carbonate or "temporary" hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium bicarbonates and is almost entirely removed by boiling. The noncarbonate or 11 permanent" hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium sulfates and chlorides and other salts and cannot be removed by boiling. Carbonate hardness and noncarbonate hardness react to soap in the same manner.

Water having a hardness of less than 50 ppm is regarded as soft, and under ordinary circumstances no treatment for removal of hardness is necessary. Hardness of 50 to 150 ppm does not seriously affect the use of water for most purposes but does increase the use of soap. Water hardness exceeding 150 ppm is easily noticeable, and if it is much more than 150 ppm, the water may need to be softened. When municipal supplies are softened, generally the hardness is decreased to about 100 ppm. Further softening of municipal supplies may not be economically justified. In most softening processes, only the carbonate or temporary hardness is removed.

The hardness of 57 samples of water from Cowley County ranged from 24 to 5,770 ppm as CaCO3. All but two samples of water had hardness in excess of 150 ppm.


Next to hardness, iron is the constituent of natural water that generally is most objectionable. The quantity may differ greatly from place to place even in water from the same formation. If water contains more than 0.3 ppm of iron in solution, the iron, upon oxidation by exposure to air, may settle out as a reddish sediment. Iron may be present in sufficient quantity to give a disagreeable taste to the water, stain cooking utensils and plumbing fixtures, and be objectionable in the preparation of foods and beverages. Aeration, followed by settling or filtration, will remove the iron from some water, but treatment with chemicals is required for others.

In the 47 samples of water analyzed for iron, the concentration ranged from 0.02 to 2.6 ppm. In 18 of the samples the amount of iron exceeded 0.3 ppm.


Although the quantity of fluoride present in natural water is relatively small in comparison to other common constituents, the amount present in water used by children should be known. Fluoride in water has been associated with the dental defect known as mottled enamel, which may appear on the teeth of children who, during the formation of the permanent teeth, habitually drink water containing more than 1.5 ppm of fluoride (Dean, 1936). A smaller quantity of fluoride in the drinking water (about 1 ppm) is likely to be beneficial by preventing or decreasing the incidence of caries in the permanent teeth of children (Dean and others, 1941). Fluoride is now added to many public supplies in quantities sufficient to increase the total fluoride concentration to about 1 ppm.

The fluoride content of 56 samples of water from Cowley County ranged from 0.0 to 3.0 ppm, but only one sample contained more than 1.5 ppm.


Large amounts of nitrate in water may cause cyanosis in infants when the water is used for drinking or in the food formula. Water containing less than 45 ppm of nitrate is generally regarded as safe, but water containing more than 90 ppm is regarded by the Kansas State Board of Health as likely to cause severe, possibly fatal, cyanosis if used continually (Metzler and Stoltenberg, 1950). The source of nitrate in natural water is not definitely known, but excessive concentrations of the constituent may be an indication of pollution.

The nitrate content in the 56 samples of water ranged from 0.9 to 111 ppm. In 50 samples the nitrate concentration was less. than 45 ppm and in only one sample was it more than 90 ppm.


Sulfates when combined with calcium or magnesium contribute most of the "permanent hardness" to a natural water, and the removal of these salts is both difficult and expensive. Sulfate in excessive amount (more than 500 ppm) in a domestic or stock water supply is undesirable because of the laxative effect when the water is first used for drinking. A concentration of less than 250 ppm is recommended for human consumption, although a concentration as great as 2,000 ppm may be tolerated; a somewhat greater tolerance by cattle has been observed.

The sulfate content in 138 water samples ranged from 5.3 to 1,490 ppm; 11 samples contained more than 250 ppm.


Chloride salts are found in nature in abundance and are dissolved in widely varying quantities from many rock materials. They are found in sea water and in many ground waters at appreciable depths. Most oil-field brines contain considerable chloride. Chloride has little effect on the suitability of water for ordinary use unless present in sufficient quantity to make the water unpotable or corrosive to metal pipes and storage containers. Permissible quantities of chloride in irrigation waters vary considerably with the crop being irrigated. Removal of the chloride ion from water has been prohibitively expensive in the past, but research in recent years has discovered methods for the removal of salt from brackish water that are economically feasible.

Chloride salts in solution having a concentration of less than 250 ppm cannot be detected by taste, and such waters are regarded as satisfactory for ordinary uses. Water containing between 250 and 500 ppm of chloride may have a slightly salty taste but can be used for drinking and household uses. Water containing more than 500 ppm has a disagreeable taste but ordinarily causes no ill effects. It is reported that cattle can drink water having a chloride content of 5,000 ppm.

During the last 25 years the city of Winfield has had to abandon several wells because of salt-water contamination, and many individuals in the Arkansas River valley have reported salt-water contamination of their water supply. In the spring of 1944 about 75 test holes were drilled in the alluvium and terrace deposits in and adjacent to the Arkansas River valley. Samples were collected from these test holes and from wells in the area and these were analyzed. (See Tables 6 and 7 and Pl. 6.) During the present investigation, many additional test holes were augered and water samples collected; the results of these analyses also are given in Tables 6 and 7 and shown on Plate 6. Samples were collected at different depths in many of these later test holes, to determine whether the chlorides were confined to any particular horizon within the aquifer. In general, the greatest concentration of chlorides was near the base 'of the aquifer.

Of 215 water samples analyzed for chloride content, 87 contained chloride in excess of 250 ppm; and all but 1 were collected from wells in alluvium or terrace deposits in the Arkansas River valley and adjacent areas. Well 34-4-28aba obtains water containing 410 ppm of chloride from the Barneston Limestone at a depth of 242 feet. The chloride content of 128 samples was less than 250 ppm, and that of 17 samples was more than 5,000 ppm.


Ordinarily the temperature of ground water receives little attention in a discussion of the quality of water or its suitability for use. Ground water is preferred by many industries that use large quantities of water for cooling because of its relatively uniform temperature. In areas where industrial users return large quantities of water to the aquifer, a marked rise in temperature of the ground water may be noted.

In Cowley County the temperature of the water, given in Table 6, ranged from 55° F to 58° F, excluding that from test hole 35-3-1aaa, in which the temperature was exceptionally low. On June 8, 1957, a sample from this test hole bad a temperature of 48° F. On August 27, 1958, this test hole was redrilled and resampled at a depth of 47 feet and the temperature was again 48° F. The cause for this abnormally low temperature was not determined.

Suitability of Water for Irrigation

This discussion of the suitability of water for irrigation is adapted from Agriculture Handbook No. 60, U. S. Department of Agriculture (U. S. Salinity Laboratory Staff, 1954).

The development and maintenance of successful irrigation projects involve not only the supplying of irrigation water to the land, but also the control of the salinity and alkalinity of the soil. Soil that was originally nonsaline and nonalkaline may become unproductive if excessive soluble salts or exchangeable sodium are allowed to accumulate because of improper irrigation and soil management or poor drainage.

The characteristics of an irrigation water that seem to be most important in determining its quality are (1) total concentration of soluble salts; (2) relative proportion of sodium to total principal cations (magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium); (3) concentration of boron or trace elements that may be toxic to the plant; and (4) under some conditions the concentration of bicarbonate as related to the concentration of calcium and magnesium.

For classification of irrigation water, the dissolved solids content can be adequately expressed in terms of specific conductance, which is a measure of the ability of the inorganic salts in solution to conduct an electric current. The conductivity is usually expressed in terms of micromhos per centimeter at 25° C and may be approximated by multiplying by 100 the total equivalents per million of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Factors for converting parts per million to equivalents per million are given in Table 8. In general, water having a conductance of less than 750 micromhos is satisfactory insofar as salt content is concerned, although some salt-sensitive crops may be adversely affected by water having a conductance in the range of 250 to 750 micromhos per centimeter. Waters ranging from 750 to 2,250 micromhos per centimeter are widely used, and satisfactory crop growth is obtained under good management and favorable drainage conditions. Very few instances can be cited where water having a conductivity greater than 2,250 micromhos per centimeter has been used successfully.

The relative proportion of sodium to other cations in irrigation water may be expressed simply as the percentage of sodium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses the sodium-adsorption ratio (SAR) to express the relative activity of sodium ions in exchange reactions with the soil, and to measure the suitability of water for irrigation. The sodium-adsorption ratio may be determined by the formula

SAR = Sodium concentration divided by the square root of half the sum of the calcium and magnesium.

where the ionic concentrations are expressed in equivalents per million. The sodium-adsorption ratio may also be determined by the use of the nomogram shown in Figure 7. To use the nomogram the concentration of sodium in equivalents per million is plotted on the left or A scale, and the sum of the concentrations of calcium and magnesium in equivalents per million is plotted on the right or B scale. The point where a line between these points intersects the SAR or C scale indicates the sodium-adsorption ratio of the water. When the sodium-adsorption ratio and the electrical conductivity of a water are known, the suitability of the water for irrigation can be determined by plotting these values on the,diagram shown in Figure 8. Low-sodium water (S1) can be used on almost all soils with little danger of development of harmful levels of exchangeable sodium. Medium-sodium water (S2) will present an appreciable sodium hazard in fine-textured soils, especially under poor drainage or low leaching conditions. This water may be safely used on soils having a high permeability. High-sodium water (S3) may produce harmful levels of exchangeable sodium in most soils and will require good soil management and good drainage, through leaching, and addition of organic matter. Very high sodium water (S4) is generally unsuitable for irrigation unless special practices are used, such as addition of gypsum to the soil.

Figure 7--Nomogram for determining sodium-adsorption ratio of irrigation water.

Graphical method to solve an equation; plotting values on each side of figure allows a line to be drawn, intersecting the SAR value.

Figure 8--Diagram showing classification fo water samples from Cowley County for irrigation use.

Most samples in Low Sodium Hazard zone, though 2 are in Medium zone; Most samples are in Medium or High Salinity Hazard zones, though 1 is in Very High zone.

Low-salinty water (C1) (Fig. 8) can be used on most soils with little likelihood that salinity will develop. Medium-salinity water (C2) can be used if there is a moderate amount of leaching. Moderately salt-tolerant crops such as potatoes, corn, wheat, oats, and alfalfa can be irrigated with such water without special practices. High-salinity water (C3) cannot be used on soils having restricted drainage. Very high salinity water (C4) can be used only on certain very salt-tolerant crops, and then only if special practices are used. The sodium-adsorption ratio, conductivity, and class of irrigation water for samples from 37 wells in the Arkansas River valley and Walnut River valley are given in Table 10. Water from six of the wells is not suitable for irrigation. Three of the six samples of water have very large values for both the sodium-adsorption ratio and the conductivity; they are probably from areas contaminated by oil-field brines. In the other three samples, the alkali hazard is not great, but the salinity hazard exceeds the limit of satisfactory water for use in irrigation.

Table 10--Sodium-adsorption ratio (SAR), conductivity (C), and class of irrigation water from wells in Arkansas River valley and Walnut River valley

Well number SAR Conductivity Class
30-4-19add 0.9 1,040 C3-S1
31-4-18cbb 1.3 1,010 C3-S1
32-3-6dcc 18 21,500 No plot
32-3-7ddd1 1.0 870 C3-S1
32-3-9abb 1.6 630 C2-S1
32-3-18ddc 1 880 C3-S1
32-3-21ccc .9 520 C2-S1
32-3-24bdc 1.4 2,720 No plot
32-3-32cdd 1.6 890 C3-S1
32-3-32ddc 1.2 690 C2-S1
32-3-34abb 3.1 4,550 No plot
32-4-6ccc .6 690 C2-S1
32-4-34ccb .7 660 C2-S1
33-3-5bbb .4 570 C2-S1
33-3-5cbc 2.4 2,870 No plot
33-3-10ccc 1.4 800 C3-S1
33-3-13aaa 2.1 810 C3-S1
33-3-14dda 2 830 C3-S1
33-3-17aaa1 19 12,200 No plot
33-3-20dcc 50 49,400 No plot
33-3-25bbb 2.9 970 C3-S1
33-3-34cdd 1 700 C2-S1
33-4-19adc 1.8 1,020 C3-S1
33-4-21cdd 1.5 840 C3-S1
33-4-23ccc2 1.1 1,270 C3-S1
33-4-30add1 2.8 960 C3-S1
34-3-4bbb 3.8 1,880 C3-S1
34-3-4bbb 3.2 1,200 C3-S1
34-3-7baa 2.5 2,320 C4-S1
34-3-23cbb .8 830 C3-S1
34-3-26bad2 5.9 1,360 C3-S2
34-4-12bbb .8 640 C2-S1
34-4-21dcc .4 740 C2-S1
34-4-33ddd 3.1 1,060 C3-S1
34-4-34ddd 3.9 1,770 C3-S1
35-3-1aaa 4.5 1,300 C3-S1
35-4-2add .4 770 C3-S1
35-4-6bdc 6.1 1,780 C3-S2

The values for the other 32 samples from wells given in Table 10 are plotted in Figure 8. Nine samples of water are in the C2-S1 class and can be used in areas of good drainage and moderate leaching. Twenty samples of water are in the C3-S1 class and should not be used in areas of restricted drainage; they will require some leaching. Two samples of water in the C3-S2 class should be used only in permeable soils where considerable leaching can take place. One sample of water in the C4-S1 class would present a salinity hazard and could be used only on certain crops and would require very good soil management.

Most of the soils in the Arkansas River valley are relatively permeable, drain readily, and are thoroughly leached. In parts of the Walnut River valley and in the area underlain by Illinoisan terrace deposits (Pl. 1), some of the soils are heavy and poorly drained and cannot be leached readily.

Available information concerning trace elements in ground water in Kansas is sparse. Elements that might be toxic to plants are not known to be present in harmful quantities, however.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web May 21, 2009; originally published August 1962.
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