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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Information Circular (PIC) 2

Salt Contamination of Ground Water in South Central Kansas

Robert W. Buddemeier,
Geohydrology Section, Kansas Geological Survey
Robert S. Sawin,
Geology Extension, Kansas Geological Survey
Donald O. Whittemore and David P. Young,
Geohydrology Section, Kansas Geological Survey


The natural contamination of fresh ground water by saltwater is an important water-quality issue in many areas of Kansas. This saltwater comes from naturally occurring salt minerals in the subsurface. Proper management of ground water reduces, and frequently avoids, intrusion of saltwater into freshwater supplies. This circular provides water users and public officials with a basic explanation of how saltwater enters water supplies, and outlines methods that might diminish or prevent natural salt contamination of freshwater aquifers. South-central Kansas, the focus of this publication, contains unconsolidated (uncemented) sand and gravel aquifers of the Great Bend Prairie, the Equus Beds, and the Arkansas River valley. Many of the same explanations and methods apply in other parts of Kansas where natural salt contamination is a problem.

Areas of south-central Kansas where salt contamination of freshwater aquifers might occur are illustrated in fig. 1. South-central Kansas is shown in detail because of the high occurrence of salt-contamination problems in this region. "Natural" sources of saltwater contamination of freshwater aquifers are the focus of this circular. Locations of "unnatural" salt contamination also have been included in fig. 1.

Figure 1--Areas with known or potential saltwater contamination in south-central Kansas. Areas identified as "known" natural salt contamination have saltwater within the freshwater aquifer. In the areas labeled "potential" natural salt contamination, subsurface bedrock formations containing salt or saltwater are in contact with the overlying freshwater aquifers. Groundwater Management District boundaries (GMD) 2 and 5 are shown in blue.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology Extension

Web version Nov. 1995