Upper Arkansas River Projects

The Arkansas River in southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas is one of the most saline rivers in the U.S. Dissolved salts in the river water entering Kansas accumulate in the river corridor and contaminate the groundwaters in the alluvial and High Plains aquifers. The accumulation of saline water from the Arkansas River has been occurring since ditch irrigation using diverted river water began in the late 1800s. The KGS has engaged in multiple research projects in the Arkansas River corridor over the past several decades to understand the distribution, fate, and transport of saline water and contaminants in the alluvial and High Plains aquifers.

The Upper Arkansas River Corridor Study was formulated and conducted as a Kansas Water Plan project to evaluate the fate and transport of dissolved solids that are contaminating the groundwater resources in the river corridor. The evaluation addressed needs described in the Kansas Water Plan for determining the relationships among river flow and quality, ground-water levels and quality, and water use in the corridor area in the Upper Arkansas River Basin. This study was conducted from the mid-1990s to 2000 and provided important baseline information on groundwater chemistry in the region. More information on this study and a list of publications can be found on the project page.

The Upper Arkansas River Mineralization Study is an ongoing research project that is focused on characterizing the current state of mineralized groundwaters in the Arkansas River corridor, with a focus on uranium, radioactivity, and other elements for which maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for public supplies of drinking water exist. This project was funded under the Kansas Water Plan to expand on initial findings that uranium exceeded the MCL in some public water supplies in the area. More information on this ongoing study and initial reports can be found on the project page.

An executive summary of the historical and contemporary hydrogeochemistry of the Upper Arkansas River Corridor can be found here.