Lindsborg area.--For purposes of this discussion the Lindsborg area comprises the northwestern part of McPherson County including the Smoky Hill River valley. The principal aquifer in the Lindsborg area is the alluvium of the Smoky Hill River valley. The alluvium ranges in thickness from a featheredge at the valley sides to about 90 feet in the deepest part of the valley, and consists of silt, clay, and beds of sand and gravel of varying thickness at the base (logs 14 to 23, inclusive). Where the coarse material occurs in considerable thickness, wells have been developed which yield up to 750 gallons a minute, and which supply water to the cities of Lindsborg and Marquette and to several industries. The Wellington formation and Ninnescah shale bordering the alluvium in this area are relatively impermeable, and yield only small quantities of water to large-diameter farm and stock wells. Sandstones in the Kiowa shale in the Lindsborg area yield small quantities of water to stock wells, and small springs and seeps supply water to ponds.
The depth to water level ranges from about 10 feet to about 35 feet below land surface in the alluvium of the Smoky Hill Valley, and is about 35 feet below land surface in the shale bordering the alluvium. Recharge is derived from rainfall on the area and nearby areas. In the Lindsborg area ground water moves toward the Smoky Hill River and is discharged by evaporation and transpiration near the stream, and by seeps and springs that flow directly into the river. Ground water in the alluvium is hard and contains considerable quantities of iron. Water in the Permian shale is very hard.
Northeastern upland area.--The northeastern upland area comprises the northeastern part of McPherson County and the northwestern part of Marion County. This area is underlain by the Kiowa shale, except in the valley of Gypsum Creek in McPherson County and in a small valley in the headwaters of the Cottonwood River in Marion County where the Wellington formation occurs at the surface. Few data concerning ground-water conditions in this area are available, but water in the Wellington shale is very hard here as elsewhere and is available to wells only in small quantities. Gypsum Creek derives its name from the chemical character of the water flowing in it. In 1946 Wilson and Company, consulting engineers, surveyed the possibilities of developing a ground-water supply for the City of Lindsborg from sandstones in the Kiowa shale in the northeastern upland area. Test holes drilled during the investigation for the city (see logs 1 to 13 inclusive) revealed that the fine-grained sandstone was not sufficiently permeable to furnish the quantity of water needed by the City of Lindsborg from an economical number of wells. Water samples collected from the test holes indicated that ground water in the sandstone was of considerably better chemical quality than the water in the alluvium. Numerous stock wells derive water from Cretaceous sandstones in the northeastern upland area, and many small springs occur along the ravines which have cut into the sandstone.
Windom-Inman upland area.--The Windom-Inman upland area includes the area underlain by Kiowa shale near Windom, and the area underlain by Ninnescah shale southeast of Windom toward Inman and Buhler (Pl. 1).
Near Windom the sandstones in the Kiowa shale have been removed by erosion and black shale underlies the surface. Small quantities of water for domestic and stock purposes are obtained from wells drilled and dug into this shale, but these supplies generally are supplemented by cisterns and stock ponds. Southeast of Windom the Ninnescah shale yields small supplies of very hard water to farm wells, but neither the quantity nor the chemical quality is satisfactory to supply the cities of Inman and Buhler.
Fine-grained unconsolidated deposits, derived largely from the Kiowa and Ninnescah shales, underlie part of the area west of Inman. These deposits (not differentiated on Plate 1) are absent over much of the area, but locally they range in thickness from a few feet to 40 feet and yield small supplies of water to farm wells.
McPherson channel area.--The buried McPherson channel extends from the south edge of the Smoky Hill River valley southeast of Marquette southward past McPherson, Inman, and Buhler toward the present Arkansas River north of Colwich. The McPherson channel is shown on the geologic profiles (Pl. 6), and by means of contours on Plate 7. The following discussion of ground-water conditions in the deeply buried McPherson channel includes that part of the area underlain by channel deposits from the Smoky Hill River valley to the Little Arkansas River southeast of Buhler where sand dunes overlie the channel deposits.
The character of the water-bearing materials comprising the deposits of the McPherson channel is shown graphically on profiles A-A', B-B', and C-C' (Pl. 6) and is given in many of the logs of test holes (see Pl. 7 for numbers of test holes). In general, the channel deposits consist of coarse sand and gravel, interbedded with thin layers of silt and clay in the lower part, overlain by a considerable thickness of silt. The deposits are as much as 260 feet thick in the deepest part of the channel. In the northern part of the area, near the Smoky Hill River, the channel deposits have been eroded by numerous small tributaries of the river and have been completely removed near the river.
The wells supplying water to the cities of McPherson, Inman, and Buhler, to the National Cooperative Refinery Association near McPherson, and to the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railway at Groveland derive water from sand and gravel in the McPherson channel. These wells all have large yields, and the McPherson municipal wells are among the strongest in the entire area.
The depth to water level in the McPherson channel area ranges greatly from place to place (Pl. 5), being shallowest (less than 20 feet) in a narrow irregular area from Groveland to the Little Arkansas River. The shallow-water area is bordered by a larger irregular area in which the depth to water is from 20 to 40 feet. The greatest depth to water in this area is found northwest of McPherson where the water level is 97 feet below land surface. As shown by water-table contours (Pl. 1), ground water moves toward the McPherson channel from both sides, and moves northward toward the Smoky Hill River from a point southwest of McPherson, and southward from that point toward the Little Arkansas River.
Ground water in the McPherson channel is hard but is used without treatment by the cities of McPherson, Inman, and Buhler; however, most of the hardness is carbonate and the chloride content is low.
Canton-Galva area.--The Canton-Galva area lies east of the McPherson channel and is underlain by the Delmore formation in the northern part and by the McPherson formation elsewhere, and extends, for purposes of this discussion, as far south as the line of geologic profile C-C' (Pl. 6).
The water-bearing materials underlying this area are much thinner and not so coarse as the deposits in the McPherson channel, and the relationship of the deposits beneath the two areas is shown in geologic profiles B-B' and C-C' (Pl. 6). The municipal wells at Canton and Galva yield from 40 to 120 gallons a minute, quantities which probably are representative of the yield obtainable from wells in this area. The depth to water level ranges from about 10 to about 50 feet below land surface, and the water table slopes southwestward toward the Little Arkansas River.
The chemical quality of the water in this area has been affected by the intrusion of oil-field brine. Contamination by the oil-field waters has resulted in an increase in the chloride content and hardness of the ground water in parts of this area (Pl. 29).
Sand-dune area.--The principal sand dunes occur in an irregular elongate area bordering the south side of the Little Arkansas River valley and extending eastward from the west side of the area to the sharp bend in the Little Arkansas River northwest of Halstead (Pl. 1). A smaller area of sand dunes occurs east of Halstead between the Little Arkansas River and Emma Creek. Other smaller areas underlain by sand dunes in the Arkansas River valley are not included in the following discussion.
The sand dunes are composed mainly of fine- to medium-grained quartz sand, interbedded with thin discontinuous layers of silt, clay, and organic matter. No large supplies of ground water have been developed in this area. The sand-dunes area is mainly range land and many stock wells yielding quantities of water sufficient for the needs of the cattle are located in the pastures. Study of the materials comprising the dunes indicates that large yields cannot be expected from the fine sand.
The depth to water level is less than 20 feet below land surface in the sand-dune area (Pl. 5), and ground water moves northward toward the Little Arkansas River and southward toward the Arkansas River valley from the central part of the area. The sand hills comprise an excellent catchment area for rainfall and much of the precipitation falling on the porous dunes recharges the ground-water reservoir in adjacent areas. The Newton municipal well field is located favorably for recharge from the sand-dune area east of Halstead. The water in the sand dunes is relatively very soft, but contains quantities of iron as great as 44 parts per million in some places (Williams, 1946).
Arkansas Valley area.--There has been a considerable development of ground water in the Arkansas River valley from Hutchinson to Wichita, and the valley comprises one of the most important ground-water reservoirs in Kansas. For purposes of this discussion the Arkansas Valley includes the area south of the sand dunes, north of the terrace edge which extends southeastward south of Haven and Andale, and west of the Little Arkansas River south of Halstead.
The water-bearing materials beneath this area are varied in character and range in thickness from a featheredge to a maximum of about 300 feet southwest of Patterson (Pl. 6). The deposits consist of unconsolidated gravel, sand, silt, and clay, and in most places contain thick beds of very productive water-bearing gravel and sand. The stream deposits are thickest near the junction of the buried McPherson and ancestral Arkansas channels. The maximum thickness of unconsolidated deposits near Hutchinson is about 150 feet, near Wichita about 80 feet, and near Burrton about 275 feet.
Most wells of proper construction in the valley yield as much as 1,000 gallons a minute with small drawdown, and some wells yield as much as 2,000 gallons a minute with relatively small drawdown. The depth to water level is less than 20 feet in most parts of the valley and in some parts of the area is only about 10 feet. Ground water moves northeastward toward the valley from its southwestern side, southward from the sand dunes, and, in general, moves southeastward down the valley (Pl. 1). Part of the water moving southeastward is intercepted by the Little Arkansas River north of Wichita, and part continues as subsurface flow southward from Wichita. The sandy nature of the soil provides good facilities for recharge from precipitation. Exceptionally good recharge facilities are provided by the large area of sand dunes on the north side of the valley between Hutchinson and Halstead. Heavily pumped wells near the Arkansas River receive additional recharge directly from the river. The Little Arkansas River, however, has cut its channel below the level of the water table; hence it does not contribute water directly to nearby wells at the present rates of withdrawal, but rather, it receives water discharged from the adjacent ground-water reservoirs.
All of the cities in this part of the valley derive water supplies from wells in the alluvium and McPherson formation, and many of the city wells have large yields with small drawdown. Data concerning the yield of the wells and quality of the water is given above in the section on public supplies.
The ground waters along the southern part of the Arkansas Valley are very hard and contain a considerable amount of chloride; this is especially true of ground water from areas near the Arkansas River. The water from individual municipal wells at Hutchinson ranges in total hardness from 134 to 593 parts per million, much of which represents noncarbonate or so-called permanent hardness. The chloride content of waters from these wells ranges from about 100 to more than 600 parts per million. At low stages the water in the Arkansas River is somewhat salty, and water from wells near the river generally contains from 400 to 800 parts per million of chloride. The average hardness of water from the old Wichita well field was about 450 parts per million, most of which represented noncarbonate hardness, and the chloride content was about 500 parts per million. The poor quality of this water led to the abandonment of the old supply in favor of the new supply from the northern side of the valley. The hardness of the water from the new well field averages only 130 parts per million, all of which represents carbonate hardness, and the chloride content is only 25 parts. Some of the ground waters along the northern side of the valley contain a considerable amount of iron, whereas those along the southern side contain very little iron. In areas between the Arkansas River and the new Wichita well field, the ground water is intermediate in quality between the extremes given above. Thus, water from wells 2 miles distant from the Arkansas River is of much better quality than water from wells within 1 mile of the river. In and near the Burrton oil field, which extends across the valley west of Burrton, the ground waters in local areas have been rendered salty because of the escape of oil-field brines into the sands and gravels. Through the efforts of the Oil-Field Waste Disposal Section of the Division of Sanitation, Kansas State Board of Health, considerable progress has been made in bettering the conditions in the Burrton oil field, and at present practically all the brine produced is being conducted to deep disposal wells.
The quality of ground water in some parts of the valley is not suited to all industrial requirements, but even the poorest water is satisfactory for some industrial uses, and the best water is suitable for most industrial uses.
Newton upland area.--The upland area north and south of Newton is underlain principally by the Wellington formation, consisting mainly of shale, but also containing thin beds of limestone, gypsum, and other types of sedimentary rock. Wells penetrating the shale in this area generally yield only meager supplies of very hard water. Most wells yield enough water in wet years for domestic and stock use, but in dry years many wells fail. Ground waters in the Permian rocks in this area range in hardness from several hundred parts per million to as much as 2,000 parts, and much of the hardness is of the noncarbonate or so-called permanent type. The chloride content of waters from shallow wells generally is low but locally may exceed 100 parts per million; waters from deep wells generally have a chloride content considerably in excess of 100 parts per million. Water of this quality is unsuited for many uses.
Thin deposits of the McPherson formation occur sporadically south of Newton along the east side of the Arkansas River valley. These deposits are thin and are composed mostly of silt and fine sand, and yield small quantities of water of relatively good chemical quality to domestic and stock wells. Some small springs and seeps occur at the base of the McPherson formation along ravines which have cut into the underlying shale. The physical character of the unconsolidated deposits is such that only small yields can be expected from wells.
Southwestern upland area.--The southwestern upland area is southwest of the Arkansas River valley, southwest of the terrace edge which trends southeastward south of Haven and Andale (Pl. 1). This area is underlain by unconsolidated deposits of the McPherson formation which are thinner and occur at a higher elevation than the deposits of the McPherson formation in the Arkansas River valley (Pl. 6). The McPherson formation is as much as 150 feet thick in the comparable area just southwest of Hutchinson (Williams, 1946, Pl. 1), but becomes thinner southeastward and in many places only a thin mantle of fine-grained material overlies the Permian bedrock floor.
Wells 534 and 535 at the Hutchinson Naval Air Station are situated on the north edge of the upland area and are about 125 feet deep. These wells yielded 365 gallons a minute with a drawdown of 15 feet. These are the only wells in the southwestern area yielding large supplies, although small wells yield quantities sufficient for domestic and stock purposes.
The depth to water level ranges from 20 to 30 feet and ground water moves northeastward toward the Arkansas River valley in most parts of this area. In general, the water is of comparatively good chemical quality.
Ninnescah area.--The area referred to here is underlain by the Permian Ninnescah shale bordering the Ninnescah River (Pl. 1). The materials comprising the shale have very low permeability and wells penetrating the formation yield only small supplies of water to stock wells. The ground water in this area is very hard and its usefulness is limited.
Possibilities of Developing Additional Large Ground-water Supplies
The geology and ground-water conditions in parts of this area preclude the development of large quantities of water; this is true especially where shale of Cretaceous and Permian age crops out around the border of the area studied. In places in the McPherson Valley, east of the channel area, the unconsolidated deposits of the McPherson formation are thin and fine-grained and yield only moderate supplies of ground water; however, parts of the area are underlain by deposits which will yield large quantities of water to properly constructed wells, and are favorable for future development.
Lindsborg area.--It seems that moderately large supplies of ground water, from 300,000 to 1,000,000 gallons a day, can be developed from wells in the alluvium of the Smoky Hill River valley near Lindsborg. In general, the alluvium is less productive in the valley westward from Lindsborg; wells at Lindsborg yield from 600 to 750 gallons a minute with from 10 to 13 feet drawdown, and wells near Marquette yield smaller quantities of water with greater drawdown.
As is noted above, the chemical character of the water in the Smoky Hill Valley is such that treatment is required for many industrial uses. The water is very hard and is treated by the Missouri Pacific Railway for locomotive use. The water also contains a considerable quantity of iron, which is detrimental in certain industrial uses. The temperature of the water is about 60 deg. F. and is suitable for cooling and air-conditioning purposes.
McPherson channel area.--Large quantities of water, up to 5,000,000 gallons a day, can be developed from properly located wells in several places in the McPherson channel area (Lohman, 1942). In general, largest yields may be expected from wells penetrating the deepest part of the buried channel. South of the Smoky Hill River the productive water-bearing area ends about midway between McPherson and the river owing to erosion and removal of the water-bearing materials. In the productive area northwest of McPherson no large supplies of water have been developed, but this area is a potential source. In and near McPherson large yields are derived from wells along the eastern part of the channel area and future developments near the city probably should be located farther west in the channel. Only moderately large water supplies have been developed from wells at Inman and Buhler in the channel area between U.S. Highway 50 N and the sand dunes, and this part of the channel would support many large wells. Because of the excellent facilities for recharge very large perennial yields could be expected from wells located in the Little Arkansas River valley and in the sand hills southeast of Buhler where the river and the dunes overlie the channel deposits.
Arkansas Valley area.--Large supplies of ground water are available from the alluvium and McPherson formation in most parts of the Arkansas Valley area, but the quality of the water, and therefore its usefulness, varies greatly from place to place. In general, the water is more highly mineralized near the Arkansas River than at other places in the valley. In all parts of the valley, however, the low temperature of the water (about 60 deg. F.) is satisfactory for cooling, air conditioning, and some other industrial uses. The sandy nature of the soil provides good facilities for recharge from precipitation in most parts of the valley.
In Hutchinson and vicinity, municipal and industrial supplies ranging up to 3,000,000 gallons a day have been developed successfully and it seems that additional large supplies can be developed without endangering present supplies (Williams, 1946). Ground water is very hard and the chloride content is high near the river in the vicinity of Hutchinson and is suitable only for cooling, air conditioning, and a few other uses. Water of much better chemical quality occurs along the edge of the sand hills northeast of the city, and facilities for recharge there are good.
The area bordering the south side of the sand dunes north of Burrton is quite favorable for the development of large ground-water supplies and the chemical character of the uncontaminated ground water is good. Oil wells in the area, however, may have contributed undesirable water to the aquifer.
A large supply of water of good quality has been developed by the City of Wichita in the area southwest of Halstead. It seems that additional water can be derived from the aquifer in the vicinity of the well field.
Wells having large yields could be constructed along the north side of the Arkansas River between Patterson and Bentley, but the quality of the water is poor. The area between Patterson and Burrton is underlain by thick deposits of water-bearing material and would yield large quantities of water, but serious contamination by oil-field brine has occurred in that area (Pl. 29).
Ground water of better quality occurs in the valley south of the river, and large yields from wells may be expected southeastward from Mt. Hope in the Cowskin Creek-Big Slough area. Test drilling revealed thick deposits of coarse water-bearing materials northeast of Colwich, and it seems that a large supply of ground water of comparatively good quality could be expected there.
Very productive wells yielding water of comparatively good quality have been developed in the alluvium of the Little Arkansas River from Halstead to Wichita. There are several undeveloped parts of the valley along this stream where large supplies of ground water could be developed.
Large supplies of water of quality suitable for cooling and air conditioning are available in the City of Wichita west of the east boundary of the alluvium. A large but unknown quantity of water is pumped in the city for cooling purposes, especially in the business district. Although few data are available concerning the reduction in ground-water storage in the city, it is believed that additional supplies can be developed in most parts of the business and industrial areas in the valley.
Test drilling has shown that additional supplies of water are available in the valley from Emma Creek to the Little Arkansas River beneath the sand dunes south of the present Newton municipal well field (Pl. 6). The chemical character of the water and the facilities for recharge from precipitation are good, and it is believed that properly constructed wells would have large yields. Future needs of the City of Newton probably could be produced in this area.
Kansas Geological Survey, South-central Kansas
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Web version April 2005. Original publication date July 1949.