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Meade County Geohydrology

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This report describes the geography, geology, and ground-water resources of Meade County, southwestern Kansas. Many previously published geologic reports, particularly those by Cragin, Haworth, Johnson, Hibbard, and Smith, were freely used in the preparation of this report. The hydrologic information was obtained in the field in 1939 and 1940, chiefly by interviewing well drillers and owners of private and public-supply wells; measuring water levels, discharges, or both in 354 wells; and the drilling of 24 test holes by a portable hydraulic-rotary drilling machine owned by the State and Federal Geological Surveys. Considerable time in the field was devoted to a study of the water-bearing formations, particularly the Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits, which are the most productive sources of ground water in the county.

The county lies in the High Plains and Plains Border sections of the Great Plains physiographic province. The total relief in Meade County is about 700 feet. The county is drained by the Cimarron river and two tributaries--Crooked and Sand creeks.

The rocks underlying the county consist of Permian redbeds; Cretaceous sandstone and shale, which do not crop out in the county; the Laverne formation, lower Pliocene and possibly upper Miocene, consisting of shale, sandstone and limestone; the Ogallala formation, middle and upper Pliocene, consisting of sand, gravel, silt and caliche; and two Quaternary formations, which immediately underlie the surface of much of the county, the Pleistocene Meade formation, consisting of sand, gravel, silt, clay, volcanic ash and caliche, and the Kingsdown silt of Pleistocene and Recent age. Locally, sand dunes cover the surface of the uplands, and the major valleys contain shallow fills of alluvium.

Unconfined ground water of good quality occurs under nearly all of Meade County. The depth below the surface to the water table ranges from less than one foot to slightly more than 220 feet.

Of particular interest is the confined, or artesian, water that has been obtained within a considerable area both north and south of the city of Meade. Most of the artesian water is obtained from the Pliocene deposits, but some of it comes from the Pleistocene beds. Development of the artesian water in this area was started in 1886, and in 1938 approximately 3,860 acre-feet of water was produced from wells by pumping and natural flow from the artesian aquifers of the area. In addition, about 3,240 acre-feet of water was discharged by large springs in 1938. The head of the artesian water in wells has declined only a few feet since the first well was drilled, and the increased discharge from flowing wells has been about equal to the decrease in spring discharge. The shallow nonartesian water is derived partly from upward leakage of artesian water. The water table has been depressed considerably during the last fifty years. The perennial yield obtainable from the artesian water-bearing beds without decreasing the head is about equal to the total annual discharge at the present time, that is, about 7,100 acre-feet annually, of which 3,860 acre-feet is derived from wells and 3,240 acre-feet from springs. A considerable quantity of artesian water is lost by leakage into the overlying body of shallow ground water. It is estimated that under conditions of general pumping throughout the basin sufficient to lower the head enough to stop all surface flow and underground leakage, an annual yield of about 10,000 acre-feet could be obtained from wells. Under such conditions, however, the main source of recharge to the shallow water reservoir would be destroyed and serious consequences to naturally subirrigated crops might result.

The analyses of 48 samples of ground water are given, together with a discussion of the principal chemical constituents in relation to the use and geologic occurrence of the water. Most of the ground waters in the county are satisfactory for ordinary purposes, but some are sufficiently hard as to require softening for some purposes.

Tabulated records of 354 typical water wells in all parts of the county, and logs of the 24 test holes drilled in the county by the State and Federal Geological Surveys are given.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geologic History of Kansas
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Web version February 2004. Original publication date Dec. 1942.