The Dakota aquifer in northwest Iowa consists of sandstones in the Dakota Formation. It underlies most of the study area and is the most extensive source of ground water in the area. Individual sandstone beds are from less than 10 to more than 150 feet thick. The cumulative thickness of sandstone is more than 200 feet throughout much of the area. The aquifer is confined by overlying Cretaceous limestone and shale, Quaternary glacial deposits and loess. The underlying confining material is shale of the Dakota Formation, undifferentiated Paleozoic age rocks, or Precambrian crystalline rock. Water flows through the aquifer from the north-central part of the study area to the east, south and southwest. Recharge is dominantly by infiltration from the land surface through the confining materials. Discharge is to underlying Paleozoic aquifers and to the alluvium and glacial outwash deposits along the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers in the southwest part of the area. Flow components toward bedrock valleys may reflect discharge to Quaternary sand and gravel deposits in these valleys.
Pumping tests conducted in the study area indicate a narrow range of hydraulic conductivities of the Dakota aquifer, from 37 to 50 feet per day. Consequently, an average hydraulic conductivity of 40 feet per day was used to estimate the potential yield to wells completed in the aquifer. Yields of more than 250 gallons per minute can be expected throughout much of the study area and more than 1,000 gallons per minute could be produced in some areas.
The quality of water from the Dakota is a calcium, magnesium, sulfate type. It is generally suitable for irrigation purposes, based on comparisons of sodium adsorption ratios and electrical conductivities. In some areas the aquifer has water with high salinity hazard that may restrict its use to irrigation of only well-drained types of soil. The concentration of radium-226 and other radionuclides exceeds recommended limits at several sites.
The quality of water pumped from the aquifer may be altered by induced leakage from the underlying aquifers in Paleozoic age rocks if withdrawals reverse the pattern of natural flow from the Dakota into the Paleozoic aquifers. Evidence for such a reversal exists in the area around the city of LeMars.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Availability and quality of water from the Dakota aquifer, northwest Iowa