Water resources of Spink County, South Dakota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4056




Spink County, an agricultural area of about 1,505 square miles, is in the flat to gently rolling James River lowland of east-central South Dakota. The water resources are characterized by the highly variable flows of the James River and its tributaries and by aquifers both in glacial deposits of sand and gravel, and in sandstone in the bedrock. Glacial aquifers underlie about half of the county, and bedrock aquifers underlie most of the county. The James River is an intermittent prairie stream that drains nearly 8,900 square miles north of Spink County and has an average annual discharge of about 124 cubic feet per second where it enters the county. The discharge is augmented by the flow of Snake and Turtle Creeks, each of which has an average annual flow of about 25 to 30 cubic feet per second. Streamflow is unreliable as a water supply because precipitation, which averages 18.5 inches annually, is erratic both in volume and in distribution, and because the average annual potential evapotranspiration rate is 43 inches. The flow of tributaries generally ceases by summer, and zero flows are common in the James River in fall and winter. Aquifers in glacial drift deposits store nearly 3.3 million acre-feet of fresh to slightly saline water at depths of from near land surface to more than 500 feet below land surface beneath an area of about 760 square miles. Yields of properly developed wells in the more productive aquifers exceed 1,000 gallons per minute in some areas. Withdrawals from the aquifers, mostly for irrigation, totaled about 15,000 acre-feet of water in 1990. Water levels in observation wells generally have declined less than 15 feet over several decades of increasing pumpage for irrigation, but locally have declined nearly 30 feet. Water levels generally rose during the wet period of 1983-86. In Spink County, bedrock aquifers store more than 40 million acre-feet of slightly to moderately saline water at depths of from 80 to about 1,300 feet below land surface. Yields of properly developed wells range from 2 to 600 gallons per minute. The artesian head of the heavily used Dakota aquifer has declined about 350 feet in the approximately 100 years since the first artesian wells were drilled in the county, but water levels have stabilized locally as a result of decreases in the discharge of water from the wells. Initial flows of from 4 gallons per minute to as much as 30 gallons per minute of very hard water can be obtained in the southwestern part of the county, where drillers report artesian heads of nearly 100 feet above land surface. The quality of water from aquifers in glacial drift varies greatly, even within an aquifer. Concentrations of dissolved solids in samples ranged from 151 to 9,610 milligrams per liter, and hardness ranged from 84 to 3,700 milligrams per liter. Median concentrations of dissolved solids, sulfate, iron, and manganese in some glacial aquifers are near or exceed Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels (SMCL's) established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of the water from aquifers in glacial drift is suitable for irrigation use. Water samples from aquifers in the bedrock contained concentrations of dissolved solids that ranged from 1,410 to 2,670 milligrams per liter (sum of constituents) and hardness that ranged from 10 to 1,400 milligrams per liter; these concentrations generally are largest for aquifers below the Dakota aquifer. Median concentrations of dissolved solids, sulfate, iron, and manganese in Dakota wells either are near or exceed EPA SMCL's. Dissolved solids, sodium, and boron concentrations in water from bedrock aquifers commonly are too large for the water to be suitable for irrigation use.

Additional Publication Details

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USGS Numbered Series
Water resources of Spink County, South Dakota
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Information Services, [distributor],
v, 68 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.