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Kansas Mineral Resources for Wartime Industries

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Water Resources

Ground Water

by J. C. Frye

Summary—Industrial ground-water supplies in excess of 5 million gallons a day can be obtained at many places in Kansas, and at. certain selected localities supplies in excess of 20 million gallons a day are available.

Every industrial establishment must have a water supply of adequate quantity and suitable quality to meet its specific requirements. In wartime, as in peace time, large water supplies are essential not only for industrial plants but also for public and agricultural uses. Although ground water is utilized extensively in eastern Kansas, it is in the south-central and western parts of the state that it is of paramount importance. In south-central and western Kansas stream flows are so small that they do not constitute an abundant or reliable water supply; on the other hand, large groundwater supplies generally are available in these regions.

The water supplies available for wartime industries in Kansas have been described in a report published recently by the State Geological Survey as part 2 of Bulletin 41. The ground-water supplies available in south-central Kansas were described in part 1 of Bulletin 41.

The rock materials that underlie the surface of Kansas yield water more freely in some parts of the state than in other parts. Beds of coarse gravel and sand that partially fill the large stream valleys yield large supplies of water to wells, whereas some of the fine-grained or tightly-cemented rocks that underlie large areas, particularly in the north-central and eastern parts of the state, yield relatively little water to wells. Supplies of from 10 million to more than 20 million gallons a day are available for continued use from groups of wells in the Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas river valleys. Locally along these valleys larger supplies are available. Larger supplies probably would be available at most places along these valleys for a period of a few years during the present emergency.

Other areas, somewhat less prolific than those mentioned above, in which several million gallons of ground water a day could be obtained, include the valleys of the Big Blue, Republican and Smoky Hill rivers, and shallow-water areas in Kiowa, Scott, Finney, Grant and Stanton counties.

At many places in Kansas ground-water supplies are obtainable that are in excess of one million but, for the most part, less than 10 million gallons a day. The following areas in Kansas belong in this general classification: the valleys of Delaware, Solomon, Saline, lower Marais des Cygnes, and Pawnee rivers; the deep groundwater areas, including much of the High Plains of southwestern and northwestern Kansas and the extreme southeastern corner of the state; the area of sand dunes lying south of Great Bend, west of Hutchinson and east of Larned; the Meade County artesian basin; and areas in south-central Kansas underlain by Tertiary and Quaternary deposits.

The quantities of water available to wells in various parts of Kansas, discussed in the foregoing paragraphs, refer to continuous or permanent supplies from localized areas. It should be pointed out that at many places throughout the state it would be possible to pump much larger supplies of water for a relatively short period of time, in some cases 5 to 10 years. Water in excess of the safe yield described above would be taken from storage, that is, would be withdrawn from the pore spaces of the rock at a more rapid rate than it would be replenished by rainfall and seepage from streams. Such a procedure would result in a continual lowering of the water table and eventual diminution of the supply, but might be necessary locally during the present accelerated war production. Another method of increasing ground-water supplies is spacing of the wells over a wide area and connecting them by pipe lines. This method was recommended by the State and Federal Geological Surveys and has been used successfully by the City of Wichita in securing its new water supply.

Since 1937, the State Geological Survey and the Division of Ground Water of the United States Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture and the Division of Sanitation of the State Board of Health, have been making detailed investigations of the quantity and quality of ground water in various parts of the state. Of special importance in ground-water investigations are the periodic measurements of water levels in numerous observation wells in each of the areas being studied, in order to determine the magnitude and character of water level fluctuations and the rate at which the underground reservoirs are being replenished by rainfall, or depleted by natural processes or by heavy pumping. The cooperating State and Federal agencies now obtain accurate records of water level fluctuations in nearly 500 observation wells situated in 25 counties of central and western Kansas. These records are published annually in Water Supply Papers of the United States Geological Survey.

Published reports of detailed studies of the ground-water resources of specific areas in the state are listed below.


Abernathy, G. E., 194J, Ground-water resources of Mississippian and older rocks in Bourbon, Crawford, Cherokee and Labette counties, southeastern Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 38, pt. 8, pp. 221-236, fig. 1. [available online]

Frye, John C., 1940, A preliminary report on the water supply of the Meade artesian basin, Meade County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 35, pp. 1-39, figs. 1-7. [available online]

Frye, John C., 1941, Reconnaissance of ground-water resources in Atchison County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 38, pt. 9, pp. 237-260, figs. 1-6, pls. 1-3. [available online]

Latta, Bruce F., 1941, Geology and ground-water resources of Stanton County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 37, pp. 1-119, figs. 1-6, pls, 1-9.

Lohman, S. W., 1938, Water supplies from wells available for irrigation in the uplands of Ford County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Mineral Resources Circ. 9, pp. 1-10, index map. [available online]

Lohman, S. W., 1941, Ground-water conditions in the vicinity of Lawrence, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 38, pt. 2, pp. 17-64, figs. 1-6, pls, 1-2. [available online]

Lohman, S. W., 1942, Ground-water supplies available for national defense industries in south-central Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 41, pt. 1, pp. 1-20, figs. 1-3. [Available online]

Lohman, S. W., Frye, J. C., Waite, H. A., Fishel, V. C., McLaughlin, T. G. Latta, B. F., and Abernathy, G. E., 1942, Ground-water supplies in Kansas available for national defense industries; with a summary of stream flow in Kansas by George S. Knapp and J. B. Spiegel: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 41, pt. 2, pp. 21-68, figs. 1-3, pls. 1-4. [Available online]

McLaughlin, T. G., 1942, Geology and ground-water resources of Morton County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 40, pp. 1-126, figs. 1-6, pls. 1-9. [available online]

Moore, R. C., 1940, Ground-water resources of Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 27, pp. 1-112, figs. 1-28, pls, 1-34. [available online]

Surface Water

by J. C. Frye

The Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture and the U.S. Army Engineers, maintains many gaging stations on the principal streams in Kansas. Detailed stream-flow records for Kansas streams are available in Water-Supply Papers of the U.S. Geological Survey and in state reports. Stream-flow records for the period 1895-1919 and for 1919-1924 are contained in reports on the surface waters of Kansas issued by the Kansas water commission. Records for 1924-1928, 1928-1935, and 1935-1939 are contained in reports of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources. More recent information on the flow of Kansas streams may be obtained by writing to the U.S. Geological Survey, Division of Surface Water, Topeka, Kansas, or to the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources, Topeka, Kansas.

In general, supplies of surface water adequate for most purposes can be obtained from the major streams in eastern Kansas; supplies of surface water in western Kansas are inadequate for most industrial needs.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Nov. 2, 2017; originally published May 9, 1942.
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