The hypothesis is explored that groundwater-level rises in the Great Bend Prairie aquifer of Kansas are caused not only by water percolating downward through the soil but also by pressure pulses from stream flooding that propagate in a translatory motion through numerous high hydraulic diffusivity buried channels crossing the Great Bend Prairie aquifer in an approximately west to east direction. To validate this hypothesis, two transects of wells in a north-south and east-west orientation crossing and alongside some paleochannels in the area were instrumented with water-level-recording devices; streamflow data from all area streams were obtained from available stream-gaging stations. A theoretical approach was also developed to conceptualize numerically the stream-aquifer processes. The field data and numerical simulations provided support for the hypothesis. Thus, observation wells located along the shoulders or in between the inferred paleochannels show little or no fluctuations and no correlations with streamflow, whereas wells located along paleochannels show high water-level fluctuations and good correlation with the streamflows of the stream connected to the observation site by means of the paleochannels. The stream-aquifer numerical simulation results demonstrate that the larger the hydraulic diffusivity of the aquifer, the larger the extent of pressure pulse propagation and the faster the propagation speed. The conceptual simulation results indicate that long-distance propagation of stream floodwaves (of the order of tens of kilometers) through the Great Bend aquifer is indeed feasible with plausible stream and aquifer parameters. The sensitivity analysis results indicate that the extent and speed of pulse propagation is more sensitive to variations of stream roughness (Manning's coefficient) and stream channel slope than to any aquifer parameter. ?? 1991.
Additional publication details
Stream-floodwave propagation through the Great Bend alluvial aquifer, Kansas: Field measurements and numerical simulations