Measuring and computing natural ground-water recharge at sites in south-central Kansas

Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4097




To measure the natural groundwater recharge process, two sites in south-central Kansas were instrumented with sensors and data microloggers. The atmospheric-boundary layer and the unsaturated and saturated soil zones were monitored as a single regime. Direct observations also were used to evaluate the measurements. Atmospheric sensors included an anemometer, a tipping-bucket rain gage, an air-temperature thermistor, a relative-humidity probe, a net radiometer, and a barometric-pressure transducer. Sensors in the unsaturated zone consisted of soil-temperature thermocouples, tensiometers coupled with pressure transducers and dial gages, gypsum blocks, and a neutron-moisture probe. The saturated-zone sensors consisted of a water-level pressure transducer, a conventional float gage connected to a variable potentiometer, soil thermocouples, and a number of multiple-depth piezometers. Evaluation of the operation of these sensors and recorders indicates that certain types of equipment, such as pressure transducers, are very sensitive to environmental conditions. A number of suggestions aimed at improving instrumentation of recharge investigations are outlined. Precipitation and evapotranspiration data, taken together with soil moisture profiles and storage changes, water fluxes in the unsaturated zone and hydraulic gradients in the saturated zone at various depths, soil temperature, water table hydrographs, and water level changes in nearby wells, describe the recharge process. Although the two instrumented sites are located in sand-dune environments in area characterized by a shallow water table and a sub-humid continental climate, a significant difference was observed in the estimated total recharge. The estimates ranged from less than 2.5 mm at the Zenith site to approximately 154 mm at the Burrton site from February to June 1983. The principal reasons that the Burrton site had more recharge than the Zenith site were more precipitation, less evapotranspiration, and a shallower depth to the water table. Effective recharge took place only during late winter and spring. No summer or fall recharge was observed at either site during the observation period of this study. (Author 's abstract)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Measuring and computing natural ground-water recharge at sites in south-central Kansas
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey,
viii, 48 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.