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Kansas Geound Water

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Appendix A. Glossary

Acre-foot: The amount of liquid necessary to cover an acre of ground to a depth of 1 foot. In terms of water, 1 acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.

Alluvium: Unconsolidated sediment-usually sand, gravel, silt, and clay-that has been deposited by running water, such as rivers and streams. The alluvium along many Kansas rivers is a ready source of water.

Aquiclude: An impermeable layer of rock that does not allow water to move through it. Some shales, for example, have such low permeability that they effectively form an aquiclude.

Aquifer: A rock formation, either consolidated or unconsolidated, that is capable of holding and yielding significant amounts of ground water.

Aquitard: A layer of geologic material that has low permeability and thus allows water to move through it slowly.

Artesian well: A well in which the water level rises above the level of the aquifer and may flow at the surface. In a flowing well, water exits at the surface.

Bedrock: The solid rock that underlies any unconsolidated sediment or soil. Limestone and sandstone are common types of bedrock in Kansas. Most Kansas bedrock is in formations of Cretaceous age or older.

Brine: Highly salty water, commonly with more than 10,000 milligrams per liter of chloride. In parts of Kansas, ground water may be naturally salty. Brine also is regularly produced along with oil in Kansas.

Cone of depression: A cone-shaped depression in the water table around a well or a group of wells. The cone is created by withdrawing ground water more quickly than it can be replaced.

Confined aquifer: An aquifer that is bounded above and below by confining layers. Because of the pressure created in a confined aquifer, the water level in a well drilled into a confined aquifer will rise above the top of the aquifer and, in some instances, above the land's surface.

Depth to water:The depth of the water table below the earth's surface.

Drawdown:The decline in ground-water level caused by the withdrawal of water from an aquifer.

Evapotranspiration: Water that moves into the atmosphere from evaporation (from the surface of either land or water) and the transpiration of plants.

Freshwater:Water containing only small quantities (generally less than 1,000 milligrams per liter) of dissolved minerals.

Gaining stream:A stream that receives water discharge from the zone of saturation.

Ground water: Underground water that is generally found in the pore space of rocks or sediments.

Hydraulic head: In hydrologic terms, the height that water in an aquifer can raise itself above an (arbitrary) reference level (or datum) and is generally measured in feet. This term defines how much energy water possesses. When a borehole is drilled into an aquifer, the level at which the water stands in the borehole (measured with reference to a horizontal datum such as sea level) is, for most purposes, the hydraulic head of water in the aquifer.

Hydrogeology: The study of ground water and its relationship to geology. Also sometimes known as geohydrology.

Hydrologic cycle: The complete cycle that water can pass through, beginning as atmospheric water vapor, turning into precipitation and falling to the earth's surface, moving into aquifers or surface water, and then returning to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration.

Losing stream: A stream that contributes water to the zone of saturation.

Permeability: The capacity of a rock for transmitting a fluid. Permeability depends on size and shape of pores in the rock, along with the size, shape, and extent of the connections between pore spaces.

Porosity: The volume of open or pore space in a rock. Porosity determines the capacity of a rock formation to absorb and store ground water.

Recharge: The replenishment of ground water in an aquifer. It can be either natural, through the movement of precipitation into an aquifer, or artificial-the pumping of water into an aquifer.

Safe yield: The amount of water that can be removed from a source (aquifer, river, etc.) on a sustained basis without unacceptable depletion of the resource.

Saturated thickness: The vertical thickness of an aquifer that is saturated with water.

Saturated zone: That portion of soil or an aquifer in which all of the pore space is filled with water.

Specific yield: The quantity of water given up by a unit volume of a substance when drained by gravity.

Spring: The point at which ground water is naturally discharged at the earth's surface.

Surface water: Water found at the earth's surface, usually in streams or lakes.

Terraces: In geologic terms, these are flat broad benches of land that lie above the immediate floodplain of a stream. Terraces represent a prior floodplain level of the stream.

Unconfined aquifer: An aquifer that has no confining layers above it and is not under pressure. The water table forms the upper boundary of the aquifer.

Unsaturated zone: Also known as the vadose zone, this is the area of soil or rock just above the water table.

Water balance: A mathematical construction that shows the amount of water leaving and entering a given watershed or aquifer.

Watershed: The area drained by a single stream or river. The Arkansas River watershed, for example, includes that area from which water eventually flows into the Arkansas River.

Water table: The top of the saturated zone in an unconfined aquifer.

Well: A vertical excavation into an underground rock formation.

Appendix B. Further reading

The following books provide additional information about ground water and Kansas geology. In addition, the Kansas Geological Survey has published bulletins describing the geology and ground-water resources of many of the counties of the state. For a list of those publications, contact the Survey publication sales office.

Rex Buchanan (editor), Kansas Geology. An Introduction to Landscapes, Rocks, Minerals, and Fossils, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984), 208 p.

Ralph C. Heath, Basic Ground-Water Hydrology, U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Supply Paper 2220 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1982), 85 p.

Kansas Water Office, Kansas Water-Related Programs Manual (Topeka: Kansas Water Office, 1990), 60 p. A list of water agencies and responsibilities.

Kansas Water Resources Board, A Kansas Water Atlas, Kansas Planning for Development "701" Project Number P-43-Report Number 16-a (Topeka, Kansas: Kansas Water Resources Board, 1967), 57 p.

Joan F. Kenny, Reported Water Use in Kansas, 1987, U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 91-212 (Lawrence: U.S. Geological Survey, 1991), 39 p.

David E. Kromm and Stephen E. White, Conserving Water in the High Plains (Manhattan: Kansas State University, 1990), 12 p. A discussion of the results of a study of water-saving practices on the High Plains.

David E. Kromm and Stephen E. White (eds.), Ground-water Exploitation in the High Plains (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992), 240 p. A collection of articles by scholars and water professionals concerning ground-water use on the High Plains.

Luna B. Leopold, Water: A Primer, (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1974), 172 p.

Luna B. Leopold, Water: Ground-water Regions of the United States. Water-Supply Paper 2242 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey, 1984), 78 p.

John C. Manning, Applied Principles of Hydrology (New York: Merrill Publishing Company, 1987), 288 p. An outline of elementary hydrology for non-science undergraduate majors.

Raymond C. Moore, 1940. Ground-water Resources of Kansas (Lawrence: Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 27), 113 p. An historic Survey bulletin on the state's ground water. [available online]

Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (New York: Viking Press, 1986), 582 p. A popular historical account of water-use and irrigation in the American West.

Walter H. Schoewe, The Geography of Kansas, Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, "Part I. Political Geography," 1948, v. 51, no. 3, p. 253-288; "Part II. Physical Geography," 1949, v. 52, no. 3, p. 261-333; "Part III. Hydrogeography," 1951, v. 54, no. 3, p. 263-329; "Part III-concluded," 1953, v. 56, no. 2, p. 131-190.

Huber Self, Environment and Man in Kansas (Lawrence: The Regents Press of Kansas, 1978), 288 p.

James Earl Sherow, Water the Valley: Development Along the High Plains Arkansas River, 1870-1950 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990), 222 p. Traces the history of attempts at large-scale irrigation from the Arkansas River in eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

Frank W. Wilson, Kansas Landscapes: A Geologic Diary, Educational Series 5 (Lawrence: Kansas Geological Survey, 1978), 50 p.

Donald Worster, Rives of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 402 p. An articulate discussion of the development of water policy in the American West by a respected environmental historian.

Appendix C. Water-related agencies

Following is a list of State, Federal, and local agencies with responsibilities for some aspect of water regulation, planning, research, or education in Kansas. For a complete list of water-related programs, and a listing of the names and addresses of State agency personnel involved, see the Kansas Water-Related Programs Manual, published by the Kansas Water Office.

State Agencies

Cooperative Extension Services
115 Waters Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Responsibility for education in water quality and soil and water conservation. Kansas State University (KSU) Extension has offices in all 105 counties of the state. As part of KSU Extension, the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Stations undertake water research, particularly for irrigated and dryland crop production, on the KSU campus and at experiment stations in Colby, Garden City, Hays, and Parsons.

Division of Water Resources
Kansas Department of Agriculture
Mills Building
109 SW 9th, Second Floor
Topeka, KS 66612-1283

The Division of Water Resources administers 31 laws and responsibilities including the Kansas Water Appropriation Act which governs how water is allocated and used; statutes regulating the construction of dams, levees and other changes to streams; the state's four interstate river compacts; as well as coordinating the national flood insurance program in Kansas.

Kansas Biological Survey
2101 Constant Avenue, Higuchi Hall
West Campus, University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66047

Undertakes water research in Kansas related to biological water quality, riparian and wetlands, and aquatic toxicology. The Biological Survey is a division of the University of Kansas and has no regulatory authority.

Kansas Corporation Commission
Conservation Division
130 S. Market, Room 2078
Wichita, KS 67202-3802

This agency, with main offices in Topeka and Wichita and a number of branch offices, has regulatory responsibility for plugging dry or abandoned oil and gas wells, for permitting the construction of surface ponds, and for underground injection control.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Division of Environment
1000 SW Jackson, Suite 420
Topeka, KS 66612-1367

This State agency is responsible for identifying water-quality and water-pollution problems and recommending remediation; for regulating coal mining and the reclamation of lands that have been mined for coal; for regulating non-point-source pollution, such as fertilizer runoff from fields; for regulating runoff from livestock feedlots; for protecting the quality of public water supplies; for cleaning up environmentally contaminated sites; for regulating hazardous-waste storage and remediation; for permitting waste-treatment facilities; and for regulating solid-waste disposal facilities, such as landfills. This agency is also a source of information about water-quality concerns and about water wells drilled in the state.

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
512 SE 25th Avenue
Pratt, KS 67124

This agency regulates State park land in Kansas and provides information, education, and regulation related to the state's wildlife and fish. Its water-related responsibilities include development of State parks, fisheries assistance for community lakes, investigation of pollution and fish kills, improvement of wildlife habitat, and working toward recreational access to Kansas streams.

Kansas Geological Survey
1930 Constant Ave.
West Campus, University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66047

As a research and service division of the University of Kansas, the Kansas Geological Survey has no regulatory authority. It undertakes research in the analysis of hydrologic basins, the Dakota aquifer, recharge, and stream-aquifer interaction. The KGS also supplies information about geology and ground-water development, including records of wells drilled in search of water.

Kansas Water Office
901 S. Kansas Avenue
Topeka, KS 66612

This State agency operates under the purview of the Kansas Water Authority. The Water Office is heavily involved in planning, including formulation and revision of the State Water Plan, and in gathering water-resource information. The Water Office also oversees the State's basin advisory committees and the State's water marketing program, monitors water research by governmental agencies, develops water supply and demand estimates for State government, and establishes and monitors minimum desirable streamflows for a number of Kansas rivers.

Kansas Water Resources Research Institute
Kansas State University, University of Kansas
44 Waters Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

This institute conducts and supports research related to Kansas water resources. Much of that research is in support of the objectives of the State Water Plan.

State Conservation Commission
109 SW 9th Street, Suite 500
Topeka, KS 66612

This agency is charged with providing state aid to a variety of programs, including conservation districts, non-point-source pollution control, watershed-dam construction, small-lakes construction, water-rights purchases, and watershed-planning assistance. The Conservation Commission also works toward wetlands protection and stream rehabilitation.

Federal Agencies

Bureau of Reclamation
Nebraska-Kansas Projects Office
Federal Building, 203 West 2nd Street
Grand Island NE 68801-5907

Administratively responsible for several reservoirs constructed in Kansas. The Bureau also operates a program for funding small reclamation projects and undertakes planning for regional or river basin studies.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Kansas City District
601 E. 12th Street Rm 736
Kansas City, MO 64106

Tulsa District
1645 S 101 E Ave
Tulsa, OK 74128-4609

Responsible for several major reservoirs and dams in the state, including flood control, navigation, water supply, and the recreational aspects of those lakes. The Corps has two districts that cover parts of Kansas: the Kansas City district and the Tulsa district. They also provide water-related planning assistance to the state; assist in emergency responses, primarily related to flooding; regulate navigation on the Missouri River and other navigable waterways in the state; undertake streambank and shoreline stabilization; and provide advice related to floodplain management.

Environmental Protection Agency
901 N. 5th Street
Kansas City, KS 66101

Responsible for Federal environment regulation, this office provides support for State ground-water programs. EPA has an office in Kansas City that is responsible for Region VII, which includes Kansas. It has a program of protecting wellhead areas for wells that produce drinking water, provides grants for constructing publicly owned wastewater-treatment plants, provides loans for pollution-control activities, oversees the Safe Drinking Water Act, regulates permits for pollutant discharges, administers a non-point source pollution-control program (in concert with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment), sets water-quality standards for state surface water, has a program for protecting and restoring publicly owned lakes, and is responsible for underground injection control (along with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Corporation Commission). The EPA also administers a revolving loan fund for communities to construct wastewater-treatment facilities.

Rural Development
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
1303 SW First American Place, Suite 100
Topeka KS 66604

This Federal agency provides loans and financial assistance for a variety of rural areas, towns, and watersheds.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
2323 Grand Boulevard, Suite 900
Kansas City, MO 64108

Administers a program for flood insurance.

Natural Resources Conservation Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
760 South Broadway
Salina, KS 67401

A Federal agency that deals primarily with issues of soil conservation. Through 105 local conservation districts, the SCS provides technical assistance for soil and water conservation plans. It is also involved with rural abandoned mines, cooperative river basin studies, emergency watershed protection, watershed planning, and developing an inventory of information on soil and water resources for Kansas. Working with the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the SCS conducts soil surveys.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
315 Houston, Suite E
Manhattan, KS 66502

This Federal agency supports research on environmental contaminants, consults on actions related to endangered species, and has a program for fish and wildlife enhancement.

U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049

A division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. In Kansas, this agency's Water Resources Division undertakes interpretive ground-water hydrology studies, research in geochemistry, interpretive studies in water quality, and interpretive studies in surface-water hydraulics and hydrology. It also has developed a network for collecting water-resources data. The U.S. Geological Survey also maintains a field office in Garden City.

Local Agencies

Kansas has five groundwater management districts that provide local management and information related to ground water.

Western Kansas Groundwater Management District #1
Box 604
Scott City, KS 67871

Equus Beds Groundwater Management District #2
313 Spruce
Halstead, KS 67056-1925

Southwestern Kansas Groundwater Management District #3
409 Campus Dr., Suite 10
Garden City, KS 67846

Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District #4
1175 South Range Ave.
Box 905
Colby, KS 67701-0905

Big Bend Groundwater Management District #5
P.O. Box 7, 125 South Main
Stafford, KS 67578


Kansas Water Well Association
P.O. Box 654
Garden City, KS 67846
(316) 276-6930

This is a professional society primarily composed of people with interests in water, water wells, and water-well drilling in the state.

Kansas Rural Center
4021 SW 10th Street #337
Topeka, KS 66604

This non-profit organization has produced a number of non-technical publications concerning water issues in Kansas.

Kansas Natural Resources Council
P.O. Box 2635 Topeka, KS 66601
(913) 233-6707

This organization focuses on environmental concerns in Kansas, including water issues. KNRC regularly testifies concerning water issues before the State legislature and provides updates on water-related legislation being considered during the legislative session.

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Web version updated Feb. 9, 2010. Original publication date August 1993.