Small landfills are exempt from compliance with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subtitle D standards for liner and leachate collection. We investigate the ramifications of this exemption under western Kansas semiarid environments and explore the conditions under which naturally occurring geologic settings provide sufficient protection against ground-water contamination. The methodology we employed was to run water budget simulations using the Hydrologic Evaluation of Landfill Performance (HELP) model, and fate and transport simulations using the Multimedia Exposure Assessment Model (MULTIMED) for several western Kansas small landfill scenarios in combination with extensive sensitivity analyses. We demonstrate that requiring landfill cover, leachate collection system (LCS), and compacted soil liner will reduce leachate production by 56%, whereas requiring only a cover without LCS and liner will reduce leachate by half as much. The most vulnerable small landfills are shown to be the ones with no vegetative cover underlain by both a relatively thin vadose zone and aquifer and which overlie an aquifer characterized by cool temperatures and low hydraulic gradients. The aquifer-related physical and chemical parameters proved to be more important than vadose zone and biodegradation parameters in controlling leachate concentrations at the point of compliance. ??ASCE.