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Geohydrology of Rice County (1950)

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Purpose and Scope of the Investigation

An investigation of the geology and ground-water resources of Rice County was begun in 1945 by the United States Geological Survey and the State Geological Survey of Kansas, with the 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.

Ground water is one of the principal natural resources of the State. An understanding of the occurrence and movement of ground water and of the quantity and quality of water available is necessary for efficient development of water supplies in Rice County to fill the expanding needs of municipal, industrial, and agricultural activities.

The investigation was made under the general administration of A. N. Sayre, geologist in charge of the Ground-Water Branch of the Federal Geological Survey.

Location and Extent of the Area

Rice County is in central Kansas (Fig. 1). It is bordered on the west by Barton and Stafford Counties, on the north by Ellsworth County, on the south by Reno County, and on the east by McPherson County. It contains about 20 townships and has an area of about 721 square miles.

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

This project cover Rice County in central Kansas.

Previous Investigations

A report by Parker in 1911 included analyses of ground-water and stream samples from Rice County and a brief discussion of groundwater conditions in the county.

Cooperative investigations of the intrusion of salt water into fresh-water aquifers were made by the U. S. Bureau of Mines and the Kansas State Board of Health (Wilhelm and Schmidt, 1935; Wilhelm and others, 1936). Stream samples and water from wells near oil-producing areas in Rice County were included in these investigations.

Investigations of the geology and ground-water resources of other areas in central Kansas have been made by the State and Federal Geological Surveys in cooperation with the Division of Sanitation of the Kansas State Board of Health and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. These include oilfield areas of Ellis and Russell Counties (Frye and Brazil, 1943), the vicinity of Hutchinson (Williams, 1946), part of south-central Kansas (Williams and Lohman, 1949), and the Smoky Hill River Valley near Salina (Latta, 1949).

Methods of Investigation

A reconnaissance of Rice County was made by C. C. Williams and me in August 1945. Four days were spent in the field outlining the problems to be studied. In November and December of 1945, I spent 7 weeks in the field. Work was resumed in July 1946 and continued through September 1946, during which time the 266 wells listed in Table 6 were inventoried. All water-level measurements were made with a steel tape from a fixed measuring point at the top of the well. Wells in the southern part of the county were measured by J. W. Sears, who also made periodic measurements of the 22 observation wells in 1946. They were measured by D. W. Berry in 1947 and 1948. Water samples were collected from 14 representative wells, 9 test holes, and 12 stream sampling points. They were analyzed by Howard Stoltenberg, chemist, in the Water and Sewage Laboratory of the Kansas State Board of Health. Mr. Stoltenberg also made determinations of the chloride content of 89 water samples from other wells and test holes in the county. Sixty-four test holes were drilled by the hydraulic rotary drilling machine owned by the State Geological Survey and operated by James B. Cooper, D. W. Berry, W. T. Connor, and J. G. Votaw.

Altitudes of the measuring points of wells and test holes were determined by use of a plane table and an alidade, by C. K. Bayne, W. W. Wilson, and D. W. Berry. The wells shown on Plate 2 were located within the section by use of an odometer.

The base maps for Plates 1 and 2 were made from an enlargement of a drainage map prepared by the Soil Conservation Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Well-numbering System

The well and test hole numbers used in this report give the location of wells according to General Land Office surveys and according to the following formula: township, range, section, 160-acre tract within that section, and the 40-acre tract within the quarter section. This system of numbering wells and test holes is shown on Figure 2. If two or more wells are located within a 40-acre tract, the wells are numbered serially according to the order in which they were inventoried. The 160-acre and 40-acre tracts are designated a, b, c, or d in a counter-clockwise direction beginning in the northeast quarter. For example: well 19-9-7ab2 is located in NW NE sec. 7, T. 19 S., R. 9 W., and was the second of two wells inventoried in that 40-acre tract.

Figure 2--Map of Rice County illustrating the well-numbering system used in this report.

Map of Rice County illustrating the well-numbering system used in this report.


The writer is indebted to the many residents of Rice County who furnished information about their wells and permitted measurements to be taken and water samples to be collected. City officials and owners of industrial wells furnished much information about municipal and industrial wells. Drillers supplied information concerning materials penetrated in the drilling of oil and water wells in the county.

The manuscript of this report has been read critically by several members of the Federal Geological Survey and the State Geological Survey of Kansas; by George S. Knapp, chief engineer, and Robert Smrha, senior engineer, Division of Water Resources of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture; and by Dwight Metzler, chief engineer, and Ogden S. Jones, geologist, Division of Sanitation of the Kansas State Board of Health.

Figure 6, which shows the saturated thickness of the Tertiary and Quaternary deposits in Rice County, was prepared by Glenn C. Prescott. The illustrations were drafted by W. W. Wilson and Paul Carlos.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed on web June 15, 2015; originally published July 1950.
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