Water resources of Racine and Kenosha Counties, southeastern Wisconsin

Water Supply Paper 1878

Prepared in cooperation with University Extension-the University of Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey



Urbanization and changes in regional development in Racine and Kenosha Counties are increasing the need for water-resources information useful for planning and management. The area is fortunate in having abundant supplies of generally good quality water available for present and projected future needs. Lake Michigan and ground-water reservoirs have great potential for increased development. Lake Michigan assures the urbanized area in the eastern part of the two counties of a nearly inexhaustible water supply. In 1967 the cities of Racine and Kenosha pumped an average of 32.6 mgd (million gallons per day) from the lake. Water from Lake Michigan is of the calcium magnesium bicarbonate type, but it is less hard than water from other sources. Discharge from Racine and Kenosha Counties into Lake Michigan is low and has little effect on the lake. The Root and Pike Rivers and a number of smaller streams contribute a mean flow of about 125 cfs (cubic feet per second) to the lake. Ground water, approximately 5 cfs, enters the lake as discharge from springs or as seeps. The Des Plaines, Root, and Pike Rivers drain areas of relatively impermeable silty clay that promotes rapid surface runoff and provides little sustained base flow. Sewage sometimes accounts for most of the base flow of the Root River. In contrast, the Fox River, which drains the western half of the area, has steady and dependable flow derived from the sand and gravel and the Niagara aquifers. Sewage-plant effluent released to the Fox River in 1964 was about 5 percent of the total flow. A 5-mile reach of the Root River loses about 30,000 gpd (gallons per day) per mile to the local ground-water reservoir and is a possible source of ground-water contamination. Thirty-five of the 43 lakes in the area are the visible parts of the groundwater table, and their stages fluctuate with changes in ground-water levels. The rest of the lakes are perched above the ground-water table. Flooding is a recurring but generally minor problem along occupied reaches of flood plains of all the streams. However, in 1960 a flood on the Fox River, which had a recurrence interval of 60 years, caused considerable damage near the village of Silver Lake. At the same time, a flood on the Root River, which had a recurrence interval of 100 years, caused damage in Racine. The sandstone aquifer, a major artesian reservoir underlying all of Racine and Kenosha Counties, is used as a water supply for industries, institutions, and three communities. Pumpage for these uses was about 3.3 mgd in 1967. The greatest decline of water levels, attributed to both local and regional pumping, was 7 feet per year at Burlington. The specific capacities of wells developed in the Mount Simon Sandstone are about 5 gpm (gallons per minute) per foot of drawdown; in the Galesville and Franconia Sandstones, about 4 gpm per foot of drawdown; and in the St. Peter Sandstone, about 1 gpm per foot of drawdown. Yields of more than 1,000 gpm are obtained from wells tapping the Galesville and Franconia Sandstones and penetrating large crevices in the Trempealeau Formation near Burlington and Union Grove. About 2.5 mgd of ground water in the sandstone aquifer was diverted from the two-county area toward the Milwaukee and Chicago pumping centers in 1963--about 1.7 mgd moving from Racine County toward Milwaukee and 0.8 mgd moving from Kenosha County toward Chicago. Recent regional waterlevel declines in the sandstone aquifer have ranged from about 3 to 5 feet per year. This decline in water levels represents a ground-water depletion of about 0.5 mgd; however, the aquifer is not being dewatered, nor are water levels declining in the recharge area. The sandstone aquifer receives about 80 percent of its recharge from its outcrop area west of the two counties. In 1963 about 3.5 mgd moved eastward laterally from the recharge zone in western Walworth County, and about 1 mgd leaked downward through the overly

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water resources of Racine and Kenosha Counties, southeastern Wisconsin
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
Report: v, 63 p.; 4 Plates:35.50 x 17.94 inches or smaller
United States
Kenosha County, Racine County
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