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Stanton County Geohydrology

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Purpose and scope of the investigation

An extensive program of ground-water investigations in the western part of the state was started in July, 1937, by the Geological Survey of the United States Department of the Interior and the Kansas State Geological Survey, with cooperation of the Division of Sanitation of the Kansas State Board of Health, and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. In 1938 investigations were begun in parts of western Kansas where irrigation from wells is being carried on or where it is a possibility. This report presents the results of a study made during a part of the summer of 1939 to determine the availability and quality of ground water in Stanton county. The investigation was made under the general administration of R. C. Moore and K. K. Landes, state geologists, and O. E. Meinzer, geologist in charge of the Division of Ground Water of the Federal Geological Survey, and under the immediate supervision of S. W. Lohman, federal geologist in charge of ground-water investigations in Kansas.

Ground water is one of the principal natural resources of Stanton county, hence there is a definite need for a better understanding of the ground-water conditions. All public, railroad, domestic, and stock supplies in Stanton county are obtained from wells. Ground water is also being used to a small extent for irrigation, and it is likely that this practice will become more common in the future in order to insure the success of crops during periods of drought.

At the present rate of withdrawal there seems to be no danger of seriously depleting the ground-water supply, but as the number of large irrigation wells increases the problem of withdrawal may become more acute. It is desirable to have a better understanding of the ground-water conditions before extensive irrigation is begun. Accordingly a part of this report is devoted to the possibilities of developing additional water supplies from wells for irrigation.

At the beginning of the field work 17 unused wells were selected at strategic points in the county and monthly measurements of the water levels in them were begun in order to obtain information concerning the fluctuations in the quantity of water stored in the underground reservoir (Table 2).

Location and size of the area

Stanton county, in southwestern Kansas, is in the second tier of counties north of Oklahoma and is bordered on the west by the state of Colorado (fig. 1). It lies between meridians 101° 31' and 102° 2' west longitude and parallels 37° 25' and 37° 45' north latitude. It has an area of about 685 square miles, is nearly square, and extends 24 miles north and south and about 28.5 miles east and west.

Figure 1—Index map of Kansas showing area covered by this report and other areas for which cooperative ground-water reports are in preparation.

Index map of Kansas showing area covered by this report and other areas for which cooperative ground-water reports are in preparation.

Previous geologic and hydrologic work

The physiography of western Kansas was described by Haworth (1897, pp. 11-51) late in the 19th century. He includes in his report a detailed description of Bear creek and a north-south geologic cross section along the Kansas-Colorado line. W. D. Johnson (1901, pp. 601-741; 1902, pp. 631-669), a few years later, gave an interesting account of the occurrence of ground water in the High Plains, of which Stanton county is a part. In 1905 Darton (1905, pp. 318-319) made a preliminary survey of the geology and ground-water resources of the central Great Plains, and his report includes a brief paragraph on the possibility of obtaining artesian water in Stanton county. The same author (Darton, 1920) later published a somewhat detailed report on the geology and ground-water resources of the Syracuse-Lakin quadrangles, which includes about the northern two-thirds of Stanton county. Included in this report is a geologic map, a topographic map, and a map showing the depths to water level in the Syracuse and Lakin quadrangles. A very brief description of the availability of ground water in the county is given by Parker (1911, pp. 189-190) in a water-supply paper published in 1911.

In a report on well waters in Kansas published in 1913, Haworth (1913, p. 101) gives a short description of a water well in Stanton county and a map showing the depths to water level in western Kansas. The geology of Hamilton county, which adjoins Stanton county at the north, was studied and described by Bass (1926). He describes an anticlinal structure, the south flank of which extends into northern Stanton county. In 1935 Theis, Burleigh, and Waite (1935) described briefly the water-bearing formations and the availability of ground water in the entire southern High Plains. A report by Smith (1940) describes the Tertiary and Quaternary geology of southwestern Kansas, including Stanton county.

Methods of investigation

The writer spent two months in Stanton county, from July 18 to September 18, 1939, obtaining data for this report. In the field a land-ownership map of the county was used to locate wells and to outline geologic outcrops. The total depth and the depth to water level in about 130 wells were measured. All measurements were made with a steel tape from a fixed measuring point at the top of each well. Information concerning the nature and thickness of the water-bearing material, yield of the wells, and the use and general character of the water was obtained from many farmers and drillers in the county. Samples of water were collected from 36 wells and chemical analyses of them were made by Robert H. Hess, chemist, in the Water and Sewage Laboratory of the Kansas State Board of Health at Lawrence.

The altitudes of the measuring points of the wells in the southern half of the county and a few wells in the northern half were determined with a plane table and alidade by Delmar Branson and Everett Johnson in December, 1939, and January, 1940. The surface altitudes of most of the wells in the northern half of the county were taken from the topographic map of the Syracuse quadrangle.

In the winter and spring of 1940 eleven test holes (fig. 4) were drilled by Ellis D. Gordon and Perry McNally, using a portable hydraulic-rotary drilling rig owned by the state and federal geological surveys. Gordon and MeN ally were assisted for a short time by Laurence Buck. Samples from the test holes were collected and studied in the field by McNally and were again studied in the office by me. The test drilling gave information concerning the thickness and character of the water-bearing materials of the Ogallala formation and of the underlying Cretaceous and older beds. Landowners and drillers provided additional logs of wells drilled in the county.

A highway map of the county compiled by the State Highway Department was used in the office as a base map in preparing plates 1 and 2. The locations of the roads were corrected from notes taken in the field, and the drainage was corrected from aerial photographs obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Adjustment Administration. The areal geology shown on plate 1 was taken in part from the state geologic map (Geologic map of Kansas, 1937) and modified by me from field observations and from the Stanton county soil map (Joel, 1937, map 5). Plate 2 shows the location of all the wells visited during the course of the investigation. The locations of wells within the sections are based upon speedometer distances. The upper number beside the well symbol is the number of the well and the lower number is the depth to the water level in the well in feet below the measuring point. Brackets around a well number indicate that the water has been sampled and that an analysis is given in this report. The wells are numbered in order by townships from north to south and by ranges from east to west. Within a township they are numbered in the same order as the sections. Well numbers on the map correspond to the well numbers used throughout the tables and text of this report.


I am indebted to those farmers and ranchers in the county who so willingly supplied information concerning their wells, to Buell Scott and other drillers who provided well logs and other necessary information about wells, and to T. A. Blair, chief engineer for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway, for supplying a copy of the log of the railroad well at Manter. I also thank H. T. U. Smith and Frank Conselman for their helpful suggestions concerning the geologic problems.

The manuscript for this report has been critically reviewed by S. W. Lohman, and O. E. Meinzer, of the Federal Geological Survey; R. C. Moore and K. K. Landes, state geologists; Ralph H. King, editor, State Geological Survey of Kansas; George S. Knapp, chief engineer of the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture; and Earnest Boyce, director of the Division of Sanitation of the Kansas State Board of Health. The illustrations were drawn by Donald E. Dowers and G. W. Reimer.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Oct. 5, 2018; originally published November 1941.
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