Skip Navigation

Geohydrology of Kiowa County

Prev Page--Recharge, Discharge || Next Page--Chemical Character

Ground Water, continued

Recovery of Ground Water


Improvements have been made at some of the springs in southern Kiowa County to recover the water for domestic and stock use. The water from springs 3, 10, 11, and 14 is piped to farm houses for domestic use; and springs 1, 2, 9, 18, and 19 have been improved by tanks or dams to recover water for stock use. Spring 15, although unimproved, is being used as a stock and domestic water supply. Although many of the springs and seepage areas in the county are unimproved, the water is not wasted, but flows into draws or perennial streams where it is utilized in part for watering cattle.


Principles of recovery from wells

The following discussion on the principles of recovery of ground water has been adapted in part from Lohman (1938, pp. 54-56).

When water is withdrawn from a well there is a difference in head between the water inside the well and the water in the surrounding material at some distance from the well. The water table in the vicinity of a well that is discharging water has a depression resembling in form an inverted cone, the apex of which is at the well. This depression of the water table is known as the cone of influence or cone of depression and the surface area affected by it is known as the area of influence. In any given well a higher pumping rate produces a greater drawdown (depression of the water level, commonly expressed in feet) and the diameter of the cone of influence and of the area of influence will be greater.

The specific capacity of a well is its rate of yield per unit of drawdown. It is generally stated in gallons a minute per foot of drawdown.

When a well is pumped the water level drops rapidly at first and then more slowly, but it may continue to drop for several hours or days. In testing the specific capacity of a well, therefore, it is important to continue pumping until the water level remains approximately stationary. When the pump is stopped the water level rises rapidly at first, then more slowly, and may continue to rise long after pumping has ceased.

The character and thickness of the water-bearing materials have a definite bearing on the yield and drawdown of a well, and in turn on the specific capacity of a well. Drawdown increases the height that the water must be lifted in pumping a well and thus increases the cost of pumping. If the water-bearing material is coarse and of a fairly uniform size it will readily yield large quantities of water to a well with a minimum drawdown, but if the water-bearing material is fine and poorly sorted it will offer more resistance to the flow of water into a well, thereby decreasing the yield and increasing the drawdown. Other things being equal, the drawdown of a well varies inversely with the permeability of the water-bearing material.

The specific capacity of wells, particularly in unconsolidated materials, generally can be greatly increased by the employment of special methods of well construction, as described on pages 52 and 53.

In Kiowa County ground water is recovered principally from drilled wells, but in part from dug and driven wells.

Dug Wells

Dug wells are excavated by hand, generally by use of pick and shovel. Of the 101 wells visited in Kiowa County in 1941 only 4 were dug wells (30, 36, 60, and 64), and two of these (30 and 64) were no longer being used. Wells 30, 60, and 64 are 4 feet in diameter and from 24 to 66 feet in depth. Wells 30 and 60 are cribbed with rock, but well 64 has no cribbing.

Well 36 in Greensburg has attracted much attention because of the early date of its construction and its size. Construction of the well was started in 1887 and completed in 1888. The well, which is 32 feet in diameter and 109 feet deep, was dug entirely by hand and was curbed with native stone hauled from quarries along Medicine Lodge River, about 12 miles south of Greensburg. The stone curbing was assembled a little at a time on a circular wooden platform at the ground level. As the well was deepened the curbing, or caisson, was lowered into the well until the desired depth was reached. The well supplied Greensburg with water for household and commercial purposes until 1932, when, because of increased demand for water, it was replaced by drilled wells (31-34). Well 36 is now used to supply water for irrigating the lawn and trees in the city park and as an attraction for tourists, being advertised as the "world's largest hand-dug well." It may be the largest dug well in Kansas, but it is not the largest in the world. St. Patrick's well at Orvieto, Italy, is a dug well 42 feet in diameter and 200 feet deep (Tolman, 1937, pp. 11-12).

Dug wells generally are inferior to other types of wells. Most dug wells are poorly sealed and may be contaminated by the entrance of surface waters. Because of the difficulties of digging by hand below the water table, dug wells generally are excavated only a few feet below the water table and therefore are more likely to fail during a drought than are drilled wells, which generally extend many feet below the water table.

Driven Wells

A few wells (3, 75, 77, and 99) in Kiowa County are driven. This type of well is made by driving a small-diameter pipe (equipped at the bottom with a screened drive point) down below the water table. Such wells can be put down only where the water-bearing material is sufficiently permeable to permit water to flow freely into the pipe, where the material is soft enough, and where the water table is shallow. Usually a hole is first augered by hand as deep as possible; then the pipe and screened drive point are put in and driven into the water-bearing material. Most driven wells are equipped with hand-operated pitcher pumps and are used for domestic and stock purposes.

Drilled Wells

A drilled well is one that is excavated wholly or in part by means of a drill, either percussion or rotary, which operates either by cutting or by abrasion. Most of the domestic and stock wells and all of the public-supply, industrial, and irrigation (except 36) wells in Kiowa County are drilled wells. Most of them were drilled by means of portable cable-tool or hydraulic-rotary drilling rigs. The drilled domestic and stock wells in the county are 2 to 7 inches in diameter and those used for public-supply, irrigation, industrial, and railroad purposes are 6 to 19 inches in diameter. Drilled wells generally are cased with galvanized-iron, wrought-iron, or steel casing.

Construction of wells in consolidated rocks--Most of the wells in the eastern half of the dissected area obtain water from consolidated rocks. Many of the wells are open-end wells; that is, the hole is cased through the overlying unconsolidated deposits and a few feet into the consolidated rocks, but the lower part of the hole is not cased. Holes drilled into consolidated rocks will as a rule stand open without casing, but it is sometimes necessary to extend the casing to the bottom of the hole to prevent the walls from caving. Small perforations are sometimes cut in the casing opposite the water-bearing beds in wells that are cased from top to bottom.

Construction of wells in unconsolidated rocks--About 90 percent of the visited in Kiowa County obtain water from unconsolidated sand and gravel. It is necessary to case these wells the full depth of the hole in order to prevent caving of the walls. In some wells the casing is open only at the bottom, but in many wells the lower part of the casing is perforated. Perforating the casing greatly increases the area of intake, and thus the specific capacity of the well is increased and the entrance velocity of the water is reduced. Well screens are used in some wells to prevent fine sand from entering the well and to increase the intake area.

There are two types of drilled domestic and stock wells in Kiowa County. One type consists of a cased well with a separate pipe and cylinder for conducting the water to the surface. The other type, known as a tubular well, is a drilled well in which the pipe that conducts the water to the surface acts also as the casing and there is no separate pump pipe. Tubular wells generally are 2 to 3 inches in diameter and consist of a galvanized-iron pipe at the bottom of which is attached a screened point and a brass-lined cylinder. The submerged cylinder is connected with a pump at the surface by rods within the pipe. The principal advantage of tubular wells is their lower cost. The chief disadvantage is the difficulty in pulling the pipe to repair the cylinder, and (to the ground-water geologist) the impossibility of measuring the water level.

Many of the municipal, industrial, and irrigation wells in the county are gravel-packed wells. In constructing this type of well, a hole of large diameter is first drilled and temporarily cased. A well screen or perforated casing of a smaller diameter than the hole is then lowered into place and centered opposite the water-bearing beds. Blank casing extends from the screen to the surface. The annular space between the inner and outer casings then is filled with carefully sorted gravel, preferably having a grain size just slightly larger than the openings in the screen or perforated casing, and also just slightly larger than that of the water-bearing material. The outer casing is then withdrawn part way in order to uncover the screen and allow the water to flow through the gravel packing from the water-bearing material.

The logs of some of the test holes drilled during the investigation reveal that in some places the water-bearing materials are sufficiently coarse and well sorted that gravel-packed wells are not required in order to obtain large yields. In such places less expensive wells employing well screens or slotted casings, but without gravel packing, may be used satisfactorily. In places where the water-bearing materials are fine-grained, however, the gravel-packed wells have several advantages that offset the greater initial cost. The envelope of selected gravel that surrounds the screen increases considerably the effective diameter of the well, and therefore decreases the velocity of the water entering the well. This reduction in velocity prevents the movement of fine sand into the well and increases the production of sand-free water. Owing to the increased effective area offered by this type of construction, the entrance friction of the water is reduced and the drawdown may be reduced appreciably. As stated above, a reduction in drawdown, at a given yield, increases the specific capacity and reduces the cost of pumping.

Most of the large wells in Kiowa County have been drilled by the hydraulic-rotary method. In drilling a well by this method no casing is used until the drilling has been completed, as the drilling mud plasters the walls of the hole and prevents them from caving. A casing slightly smaller than the hole is placed in the well after the well has been drilled to the desired depth. If it is to be a gravel-packed well the space between the hole and the casing is filled with gravel of the proper size, or the hole may be reamed to larger diameter before placing the screen and gravel. Some of the large wells have been drilled by the cable-tool method, in which the casing is installed as the hole is drilled.

If a well of the best possible construction is employed, then the maximum amount of water that can be withdrawn from the well is fixed by nature and nothing can be done to make the well yield more than the water-bearing material will provide. The problem for the driller then is to construct each individual well in such a manner as to obtain the greatest yield with the smallest amount of drawdown that is possible under the existing conditions.

According to McCall and Davison (1939, p. 29) drawdown can be kept to a minimum in several ways:

First, the well should be put down through all valuable water-bearing material. Secondly, the casing used should be properly perforated so as to admit water to the well as rapidly as the surrounding gravel will yield the water. Third, the well should be completely developed so that the water will flow freely into the well. . . . Increasing the depth of a well will have a greater effect on reducing the drawdown than will increasing the diameter, so long as additional water-bearing formations are encountered.

A report (Davison, 1939) containing a description of different types of pumping plants, the conditions for which each is best suited, construction methods, and a discussion of construction costs is available from the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Topeka, Kansas. The reader is referred to this publication for details of well construction. A report by Rohwer (1940) describes the various methods of constructing irrigation wells. This report may be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.

Methods of Lift

Most of the domestic and stock wells in Kiowa County are equipped with lift or force pumps in which the cylinders or working barrels are below the pump heads and may be far below the surface. A few lift or force pumps are operated by hand, but most of them are operated by windmills. A few wells are equipped with hand-operated pitcher pumps that have their working parts at the base of the pump heads.

All the large irrigation wells in the area are equipped with deep-well turbine pumps operated by gasoline engines, but cylinder pumps are used in the smaller irrigation wells (23 and 35). The municipal and industrial wells are equipped with turbine pumps operated by natural-gas engines or by electric motors, or are pumped by air-lift. Plunger-type pumps operated by gasoline engines are used to lift the water in the Santa Fe Railroad wells (72 and 73) near Belvidere.

Utilization of Water

Records for 97 wells and 21 springs in Kiowa County and 4 wells outside the county were obtained and are tabulated on pages 107-116. Of the 97 wells in the county for which records are given, 77 are or have been used for domestic and stock purposes, 7 are used for irrigation, 6 are used for public supplies, 4 are industrial wells, 2 are used by a railroad, and 1 is used for air conditioning. Records for all the large wells in Kiowa County were obtained, but no attempt was made to obtain records for all domestic and stock wells.

Domestic and Stock Supplies

Most of the domestic and stock water supplies in the county are obtained from wells. Springs were being used for domestic purposes at only five of the farms visited. In the southeastern and southwestern parts of the county where there are large cattle ranches, springs and seepage areas are important sources of stock water.

The ground water in the sand hills, the upland plains, and in part of the dissected area is moderately hard but generally is satisfactory for domestic and stock use. Ground water in parts of the eastern dissected area, however, is highly mineralized and locally is unfit for domestic use. The highly mineralized waters are found in the alluvium of Medicine Lodge Valley, in the Cheyenne sandstone, and in the Permian formations (see Quality of Water).

Public Supplies

Only two communities in Kiowa County, Greensburg and Haviland, have public water supplies, both of which are supplied from wells. The residents of Belvidere use water pumped from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway wells, which are located about 2 miles northeast of town. There is no distribution system in Belvidere. Residents haul or carry water from a tap near the railroad station. Private wells supply water to the residents of Mullinville, Joy, Brenham, and Wellsford.

A large dug well formerly supplied Greensburg with water (see p. 50), but it was replaced by four drilled wells (31-34). Three of the wells (32-34) were drilled in 1925. They are 250 feet deep and are equipped with air-lift pumps. One well (31), drilled in 1938, is 125 feet deep, and is equipped with a turbine pump operated by an electric motor. The wells are gravel packed and are reported to yield from 150 to 500 gallons a minute. The water is pumped from the wells into a 45,000-gallon settling reservoir, from which it is pumped directly into the mains by a horizontal centrifugal pump, and the excess water is stored in an elevated steel tank with a capacity of 55,000 gallons. The maximum daily water consumption at Greensburg is about 650,000 gallons and the average daily consumption is about 250,000 gallons. Of these amounts, about 20,000 gallons a day is purchased by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. An analysis (31) of a composite sample of water from the four wells is given in Table 4. The water is of good quality and is not treated.

The water supply for Haviland is obtained from two drilled wells (24 and 25), each 160 feet deep and equipped with a turbine pump. One pump is operated by a natural-gas engine and the other by a gasoline engine. Each well has a reported yield of 200 gallons a minute. The water is pumped directly into the mains, and the excess flows into a 50,000-gallon elevated steel tank. Figures on the consumption of water at Haviland are not available. The water is only moderately hard (analysis 24) and is not treated.

Industrial Supplies

The principal industrial use of ground water in Kiowa County is for cooling and condensing. Ground water is used for cooling condensers at the booster stations of the Panhandle Eastern Gas Company, about one mile west of Greensburg, and the Northern Natural Gas Company, about 3 miles east of Mullinville. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway uses ground water from wells near Belvidere for filling locomotive boilers and for depot facilities. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad uses ground water purchased from the city of Greensburg for filling locomotive boilers. The Miller Cafe at Belvidere uses the water from a small shallow well (76) for air-conditioning.

The Panhandle Eastern Gas Company obtains its industrial water supply from two drilled wells (37 and 38), each 131 feet deep and equipped with a turbine pump powered by an electric motor. Both are gravel-packed wells that tap the Meade and Ogallala formations. The log (22) of well 37 is given on page 142. According to Wayne Cole, superintendent of the station, at the time well 37 was drilled it had a measured yield of 160 gallons a minute with a drawdown of 2.25 feet after 12 hours pumping. From 75,000 to 100,000 gallons of water a day are pumped from these wells. The water is treated to reduce the hardness.

Two deep wells (42 and 43) supply water for cooling the condensers at the Northern Natural Gas Company's booster station. The wells are reported to be from 350 to 400 feet deep and are equipped with airlift pumps. Well 43 acts as a stand-by well and is seldom pumped, but well 42 is reported to yield 250 gallons a minute and is pumped almost continuously. The water is treated for removal of excessive hardness.

The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company has two shallow wells (72 and 73) that tap the alluvium in Soldier Creek Valley. The wells are 14 inches in diameter and are equipped with plunger pumps operated by gasoline engines. Well 72 is used only for emergencies, whereas well 73 is pumped daily and is reported to yield 180 gallons a minute. The water, which is pumped to an elevated wooden storage tank in Belvidere, is used in locomotive boilers and for domestic purposes by residents of Belvidere. The average daily pumpage is reported to be about 10,000 gallons. The water is hard and is treated for boiler use.

The Miller Cafe well (76) at Belvidere is 30 feet deep and taps alluvium in the Medicine Lodge Valley. The well is equipped with a hand-operated lift pump and supplies water for a home-made air conditioning unit. An analysis (76) of the water from ,vell 76 shows it to be a very hard calcium sulpliate water that is too highly mineralized for domestic use.

Irrigation Supplies

In 1941, there were six irrigation wells (10, 11, 14, 15, 35, and 36) and one irrigation and domestic well (23) in Kiowa County, descriptions of which are given in Table 8. All wells used for irrigation are in the sand hills in the northern half of the county.

Well 35 is a 6-inch drilled well, 100 feet deep, equipped with a cylinder pump powered by a windmill. The water level in the well stands about 85 feet below the surface. It is used to supply water for irrigating a private lawn in Greensburg. Well 36 is Greensburg's large dug well that was formerly used to furnish the city's water supply but is now used to irrigate the lawn and trees in the city park (p. 50). Detailed descriptions of the larger irrigation wells follow.

Williamson well--The irrigation well (10) of C. Williamson is in the SE NE sec. 21, T. 27 S., R. 17 W. It was drilled in the fall of 1939, is 90 feet deep, is cased with 18-inch galvanized iron casing, and is equipped with a turbine pump operated by a gasoline engine. The measured water level on July 11, 1941, was 38.98 feet below the surface. According to the owner, water-bearing coarse sand to very coarse gravel (Meade formation) was encountered between depths of 38 and 92 feet during the drilling of the well. Approximately 40 acres of crops are irrigated with this well.

Grimes well--The well (11) of L. W. Grimes is in the NW NW sec. 34, T. 27 S., R. 17 W. It was drilled in 1936, is 87.5 feet deep, is cased with 19-inch steel casing, and is equipped with a turbine pump operated by a gasoline engine. The measured water level was 41 feet below the surface October 23, 1940. The well has a reported yield of 1,800 gallons a minute, but this figure probably is too high. In 1941 the well was used to irrigate about 35 acres, but the owner reported that he plans in the future to irrigate about 60 acres.

Miller well--The well (14) of E. E. Miller is an unused irrigation well in the SW SE sec. 18, T. 27 S., R. 18 W. It is a 16-inch well 75 feet deep. On October 23, 1940, the water level was 26.96 feet below the measuring point. No pump was in the well in 1941.

Weaver well--A. C. Weaver's well (15) in the SW NW sec. 23, T. 27 S., R. 18 W., was drilled in 1939. It is 80 feet deep and the water level, as measured October 23, 1940, was 34.25 feet below the measuring point, which is about 2 feet, above land surface. The well is from 48 to 19 inches in diameter and is cased with wrought iron casing. It is equipped with a turbine pump operated by a gasoline engine. Mr. Weaver reports that the well encountered very coarse gravel (Meade formation) between depths of 33.5 and 80 feet. About 20 acres of crops are irrigated by this well.

A pumping test was made on the Weaver well in 1941 to determine the yield, drawdown, and permeability of the water-bearing materials. During the test the yield of the well was 712 gallons a minute with a drawdown of 17.8 feet.

Davis well--The well (23) of H. E. Davis is a 6-inch drilled well in the SE NE sec. 4, T. 28 S., R. 16 W., and supplies water for both irrigation and domestic use. It is reported to be 120 feet deep and is equipped with a cylinder pump that can be operated by a gasoline engine or by a windmill. The yield of the well when operated by the gasoline engine is reported to be 36 gallons a minute.

Possibilities of Developing Additional Irrigation Supplies from Wells

The quantity and availability of ground water, type of soil, and relief of the land surface are the most important factors in determining whether or not an area is suitable for irrigation from wells. The chief factors controlling the quantity and availability of ground water are character of the water-bearing materials, depth to water, and amount of annual recharge to the underground reservoir.

In most of the southern half of Kiowa County the depth to water is too great or the land surface is too irregular for the successful development of irrigation.

The five existing irrigation wells are in the sand hills area in the northern part of Kiowa County (Pl. 2). Here the water-bearing deposits, the Meade and Ogallala formations, are capable of supplying water to many more irrigation wells without excessive lowering of the water table. The water table is nearly everywhere less than 100 feet below the surface and in a large part of this area it is less than 50 feet below the surface. The deposits of the Meade and Ogallala formations in the sand hills area range in thickness from more than 100 feet to about 290 feet. The water-bearing materials of the two formations range in texture from fine sand to coarse gravel, but the character and thickness of these materials vary from place to place even within a short distance. The logs of nine test holes drilled in this area indicate that the thickness of saturated sand and gravel ranges from about 45 feet (log 8) northwest of Greensburg to. about 170 feet (log 1) in the eastern part. In addition to the large quantity of water in storage in the Meade and Ogallala formations in this area, the conditions for recharge are more favorable here than elsewhere in Kiowa County (pp. 39-40).

The extent of future irrigation development in the sand hills area will be limited not by the amount of available ground water, but probably by the amount of land suitable for irrigation. In a large part of this area the soils are too sandy and the land surface is too irregular for irrigation, but there are small areas in which the soils and surface relief are suitable for irrigation.

Land surface conditions in the upland plains area (Fig. 2), which borders the sand hills area on the south, are more favorable for irrigation. Most of the soils here are relatively thick and consist of silt loams and silty clay loams. Furthermore, there are large tracts of land that, are sufficiently level for irrigation. The depth to water, however, is greater in the upland plains than in the sand hills and ranges from about 60 to more than 150 feet. The thickest and coarsest water-bearing deposits are found in the eastern part of this area where test hole 7 (log 7) penetrated about 175 feet of saturated sand and gravel in the Meade formation. Test hole 10 (log 10) at the western edge of the area encountered only 25 feet of saturated sand and gravel and test hole 8 (log 8) southwest of Greensburg encountered less than 10 feet of saturated sand and gravel.

If the drilling of an irrigation well is contemplated it is wise to drill several test holes of small diameter first, in order to determine whether or not saturated materials of the proper character and thickness are available. The information gained from the test holes will also indicate what type of well should be constructed, whether gravel packing is necessary, and, if not, what size screen should be used or what size perforations should be made in the casing.

Possibilities of Developing Additional Industrial Supplies from Wells

The above areas favorable for the development of irrigation wells are also favorable for the development of industrial wells. Smaller industrial wells tapping sand and gravel of the Meade formation could also be developed in places in the western dissected area.

Prev Page--Recharge, Discharge || Next Page--Chemical Character

Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Feb. 4, 2008; originally published Feb. 1948.
Comments to
The URL for this page is