The aquifer systems of Kansas

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(Note: This article is an excerpt from Water Primer: Part 3 Groundwater, K-State Research and Extension publication MF-3022, by Danny Rogers, Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Morgan Powell, Professor Emeritus, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; and Kerri Ebert, Extension Assistant, Biological and Agricultural Engineering. The full publication can be accessed online at: -- Steve Watson, Agronomy eUpdate Editor)


Kansas has seven principal groundwater aquifer systems.

Alluvial aquifers

Alluvial aquifers are unconfined and associated with streams and rivers. The Kansas River Alluvial Aquifer is an important source of water for cities and irrigation along the border of the glaciated area and the Flint Hills. Other major unconfined alluvial aquifers include the Arkansas, Republican, and Pawnee rivers, on which high-yielding wells are possible (>500 gallons per minute, or gpm). Generally, the water quality of alluvial aquifers in Kansas is suitable for typical municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses, although many alluvial aquifers tend to have high enough iron and manganese concentrations to cause staining.

The water from some isolated areas of alluvial aquifers can be saline because of contact with underlying bedrock.

Water table aquifers

The Glacial-Drift Aquifer is a major source of water in northeast Kansas. The aquifer consists of unconfined, unconsolidated glacial deposits and produces wells that yield from 10 to 500 gpm with good quality water that is suitable for most uses.

The High Plains Aquifer is the largest, most important, and most extensively used aquifer in Kansas. This large regional aquifer extends from Texas and New Mexico, through Oklahoma, Kansas, eastern Colorado, and Nebraska, to extreme southern South Dakota. In Kansas, the aquifer is composed of three hydraulically connected but distinct formations: the Ogallala, Great Bend Prairie, and Equus Beds. The Ogallala formation is generally composed of unconsolidated sand, gravel, silt, and clay deposited by streams that historically flowed east from the Rocky Mountains. The Great Bend Prairie and Equus Bed formations are also composed of silt, clay, sand, and gravel deposits left by streams flowing through central Kansas. In some areas, these formations are in contact with each other, creating one continuous aquifer. Wells in the High Plains Aquifer yield from 500 to 1,500 gpm. The water quality is suitable for most uses.

Great Plains Aquifer. This aquifer is a major source of water in central and north central Kansas. This aquifer consists of Dakota and Cheyenne sandstones. It is generally unconfined in the area shown in Figure 4; however, west and north of this area the aquifer is confined but typically contains poor quality water. Wells yield from 10 to 100 gpm in the northeast and more than 1,000 gpm in the south.

Chase and Council Grove Aquifer. The Chase and Council Grove Aquifer is an important water source in the Osage Plains, with well yields ranging from 10 to 200 gpm. The water quality generally is suitable for most uses; however, local sulfate concentrations can be high, especially in samples taken in the western part of the aquifer. (Figure 4)

Douglas Aquifer. The Douglas Aquifer is small but an important source where the sandstone formation is exposed. The aquifer generally is unconfined, and wells yield from 10 to 100 gpm. The water quality is suitable for most uses, although some wells produce water with high fluoride concentrations. As in the case of the Chase and Council Grove Aquifer, the water in western areas is not used because of high mineral content.

Ozark Aquifer. The Ozark Aquifer is the major source of groundwater in extreme southeast Kansas. This confined aquifer consists of weathered and sandy dolomites. Dolomite is a kind of sedimentary rock, much like limestone but rich in magnesium carbonate. At the shallowest point, the top of the formation in Kansas is 300 feet below land surface. Wells yield from 30 to 500 gpm, and the water is suitable for most uses.

(Adapted from Bevans, Hugh E., Timothy B. Spruill and Joan F. Kenny. “Kansas Ground- Water Resources.” U.S. Geological Survey. National Water Summary. pp 217-222 Water Supply Paper 2275. 1984.)

Source: Water Primer: Part 3 Groundwater, K-State Research and Extension publication MF-3022: