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Ground-water Resources of Kansas

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Ground-water Investigations by the Geological Survey in Kansas

Information concerning the nature and occurrence of ground-water reservoirs in various parts of Kansas has been gathered by geologists of the Kansas Geological Survey during many years. Special studies of ground-water development have been made from time to time in certain districts of the state. A systematic program of investigations was begun in 1937, when cooperative arrangements with the United States Geological Survey were made under which geologists and engineers specially trained in hydrology were assigned to work in Kansas on projects outlined by the State Survey.

The first special project was a careful study of the ground-water area north of Wichita known as the Equus beds. This study was undertaken cooperatively by the United States Geological Survey working with the Kansas Geological Survey and the State Board of Health. Later, the city of Wichita joined in support of the work, and, as one result of the investigation, has been served by the gathering of the information needed for installation of a new municipal water supply to be drawn from about twenty-five wells located in the southern part of this ground-water reservoir area, about twenty miles northwest of Wichita. In the course of this survey, the geology has been studied from surface outcrops and from artificial exposures, and more than 100 test wells have been put down in order to obtain information on the distribution and character of the water-bearing beds. A detailed map of the sloping water table has been prepared to show the direction of movement of the ground water, its relation to surface-water bodies, the areas of discharge and recharge, and the effects of heavy pumping and other conditions.

Information as to the permeability or water-transmitting capacity of the deposit has been obtained from laboratory studies of materials obtained in the field and from pumping tests on certain wells, supplemented by examination of the water level in surrounding observation wells. Analyses of the sands and other materials have also been made in the laboratory in order to show the porosity and water-transmitting capacity of the samples. Study of intake facilities of soil and other surficial deposits in the area gives basis for estimates of the rate of recharge of the ground-water reservoir. Comprehensive study of the chemical nature of the water in this region has been made with aid of the water laboratory of the State Board of Health, and special attention was given to study of conditions introduced by escape of oil-field brines from ponds in the neighborhood of wells penetrating the reservoir.

A grave danger to fresh-water beds in various parts of Kansas exists in the pollution of the ground-water reservoirs by oil-field brines. Salt-water ponds located in areas of pervious deposits, as in McPherson, Harvey, Reno, and other counties, permit the very saline water to seep downward into the underflow. Investigations of the Survey near the Burrton field indicate that the salt water sinks rapidly downward, and because its density exceeds that of the fresh water, it spreads as a sheet of bottom flow in the pervious sands, seemingly with a surprisingly small amount of mixture with the fresh waters.

It has been planned to extend the ground-water surveys to various other districts in eastern and western Kansas. Largely as a result of the severe drought of recent years, many inquiries as to possibility of utilizing ground water for at least local irrigation projects in western Kansas have led to reconnaissance surveys in several southwestern Kansas counties. The first of these to be undertaken was in Ford County, where work was begun in October, 1938, and a preliminary report completed in March, 1939. Further studies, accompanied by some test drilling, have provided material for a report on this county, which is now being completed. More recently, work has been in progress in Meade, Scott, Morton, and Stanton counties, and studies have been initiated in Hamilton, Finney, Kearny, and Gray counties. The Geological Survey is also assembling water-level records of the Soil Conservation Service in Jewell County, Kansas. Also, assistance has been rendered to several communities depending on ground water for public water supplies, some of these being Winfield, Hesston, Reading, Sterling, Council Grove, and Kanopolis.

A valuable tool of the Survey in its ground-water investigation is a portable hydraulic rotary well-drilling machine that was purchased from cooperative funds during July, 1939. The machine has been used to obtain samples and necessary information in the central Kansas district, and is now at work "in the southwestern part of the state.

Cooperation and valued aid have been received from the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, George S. Knapp, chief engineer, and the western Kansas studies have been coordinated fully with work being undertaken through the Soil Conservation Service and other branches of the United States Department of Agriculture. This systematic geologic and engineering work under competent technical direction, coordinated with labor of other state agencies, may be confidently expected to supply vital information needed for the wise development and best utilization of the ground-water resources existing in various parts of Kansas.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed on web Dec. 11, 2015; originally published June 25, 1940.
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