Effects of aquifer storage and recovery activities on water quality in the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds Aquifer, south-central Kansas, 2011–14

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5042
Prepared in cooperation with the City of Wichita, Kansas
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Equus Beds aquifer in south-central Kansas is aprimary water source for the city of Wichita. The Equus Beds aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) project was developed to help the city of Wichita meet increasing current (2016) and future water demands. The Equus Beds ASR project pumps water out of the Little Arkansas River during above-base flow conditions, treats it using drinking-water quality standards as a guideline, and recharges it into the Equus Beds aquifer for later use. Phase II of the Equus Beds ASR project currently (2016) includes a river intake facility and a surface-water treatment facility with a 30 million gallon per day capacity. Water diverted from the Little Arkansas River is delivered to an adjacent presedimentation basin for solids removal. Subsequently, waste from the surface-water treatment facility and the presedimentation basin is returned to the Little Arkansas River through a residuals return line. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Wichita, developed and implemented a hydrobiological monitoring program as part of the ASR project to characterize and quantify the effects of aquifer storage and recovery activities on the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds aquifer water quality.

Data were collected from 2 surface-water sites (one upstream and one downstream from the residuals return line), 1 residuals return line site, and 2 groundwater well sites (each having a shallow and deep part): the Little Arkansas River upstream from the ASR facility near Sedgwick, Kansas (upstream surface-water site 375350097262800), about 0.03 mile (mi) upstream from the residuals return line site; the Little Arkansas River near Sedgwick, Kans. (downstream surface-water site 07144100), about 1.68 mi downstream from the residuals return line site; discharge from the Little Arkansas River ASR facility near Sedgwick, Kansas (residuals return line site 375348097262800); 25S 01 W 07BCCC01 SMW–S11 near CW36 (MW–7 shallow groundwater well site 375327097285401); 25S01 W 07BCCC02 DMW–S10 near CW36 (MW–7 deep groundwater well site 375327097285402); 25S 01W 07BCCA01 SMW–S13 near CW36 (MW–8 shallow groundwater well site 375332097284801); and 25S 01W 07BCCA02 DMW–S14 near CW36 (MW–8 deep groundwater well site 375332097284802). The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Wichita, assessed the effects of the ASR Phase II facility residuals return line discharges on stream quality of the Little Arkansas River by measuring continuous physicochemical properties and collecting discrete water-quality and sediment samples for about 2 years pre- (January 2011 through April 2013) and post-ASR (May 2013 through December 2014) Phase II facility operation upstream and downstream from the ASR Phase II facility. Additionally, habitat variables were quantified and macroinvertebrate and fish communities were sampled upstream and downstream from the ASR Phase II facility during the study period. To assess the effects of aquifer recharge on Equus Beds groundwater quality, continuous physicochemical properties were measured and discrete water-quality samples were collected before and during the onset of Phase II aquifer recharge in two (shallow and deep) groundwater wells.

Little Arkansas River streamflow was about 10 times larger after the facility began operating because of greater rainfall. Residuals return line release volumes were a very minimal proportion (0.06 percent) of downstream streamflow volume during the months the ASR facility was operating. Upstream and downstream continuously measured water temperature and dissolved oxygen median differences were smaller post-ASR than pre-ASR. Turbidity generally was smaller at the downstream site throughout the study period and decreased at both sites after the ASR Phase II facility began discharging despite a median residuals return line turbidity that was about an order of magnitude larger than the median turbidity at the downstream site. Upstream and downstream continuously measured turbidity median differences were larger post-ASR than pre-ASR. Median post-ASR continuously measured nitrite plus nitrate and continuously computed total suspended solids and suspended-sediment concentrations were smaller than pre-ASR likely because of higher streamflows and dilution; whereas, median continuously computed dissolved and total organic carbon concentrations were larger likely because of higher streamflows and runoff conditions.

None of the discretely measured water-quality constituents (dissolved and suspended solids, primary ions, suspended sediment, nutrients, carbon, trace elements, viral and bacterial indicators, and pesticides) in surface water were significantly different between the upstream and downstream sites after the ASR Phase II facility began discharging; however, pre-ASR calcium, sodium, hardness, manganese, and arsenate concentrations were significantly larger at the upstream site, which indicates that some water-quality conditions at the upstream and downstream sites were more similar post-ASR. Most of the primary constituents that make up dissolved solids decreased at both sites after the ASR Phase II facility began operation. Discretely collected total suspended solids concentrations were similar between the upstream and downstream sites before the facility began operating but were about 27 percent smaller at the downstream site after the facility began operating, despite the total suspended solids concentrations in the residuals return line being 15 times larger than the downstream site.

Overall habitat scores were indicative of suboptimal conditions upstream and downstream from the ASR Phase II facility throughout the study period. Substrate fouling and sediment deposition mean scores indicated marginal conditions at the upstream and downstream sites during the study period, demonstrating that sediment deposition was evident pre- and post-ASR and no substantial changes in these habitat characteristics were noted after the ASR Phase II facility began discharging. Macroinvertebrate community composition (evaluated using functional feeding, behavioral, and tolerance metrics) generally was similar between sites during the study period. Fewer macroinvertebrate metrics were significant between the upstream and downstream sites post-ASR (6) than pre-ASR (14), which suggests that macroinvertebate communities were more similar after the ASR facility began discharging. Upstream-downstream comparisons in macroinvertebrate aquatic-life-support metrics had no significant differences for the post-ASR time period and neither site was fully supporting for any of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment aquatic-life-support metrics (Macroinvertebrate Biotic Index; Kansas Biotic Index with tolerances for nutrients and oxygen-demanding substances; Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera [EPT] richness; and percentage of EPT species). Overall, using macroinvertebrate aquatic life-support criteria from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, upstream and downstream sites were classified as partially supporting before and after the onset of ASR facility operations. Fish community trophic status and tolerance groups generally were similar among sites during the study period. Fish community Little Arkansas River Basin Index of Biotic Integrity scores at the upstream and downstream sites were indicative of fair-to-good conditions before the facility began operating and decreased to fair conditions after the facility began operating.

Groundwater physicochemical changes concurrent with the beginning of recharge operations at the Sedgwick basin were more pronounced in shallow groundwater. No constituent concentrations in the pre-recharge period in comparison to the post-recharge period increased to concentrations exceeding drinking water regulations; however, nitrate decreased significantly from a pre-recharge exceedance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level to a post recharge nonexceedance. Shallow groundwater chemical concentrations or rates of detection increased after artificial recharge began for the ions potassium, chloride, and fluoride; phosphorus and organic carbon species; trace elements barium, manganese, nickel, arsenate, arsenic, and boron; agricultural pesticides atrazine, metolachlor, metribuzin, and simazine; organic disinfection byproducts bromodichloromethane and trichloromethane; and gross beta levels. Additionally, water temperature, and pH were larger after recharge began; and total solids and slime-forming bacteria concentrations and densities were smaller. Total solids, nitrate, and selenium significantly decreased; and potassium, chloride, nickel, arsenic, fluoride, phosphorus and carbon species, and gross beta levels significantly increased in shallow groundwater after artificial recharge. Results of biological activity reaction tests indicated that water quality microbiology was different before and after artificial recharge began; at times, these differences may lead to changes in dominant bacterial populations that, in turn, may lead to formation and expansion in populations that may cause bioplugging and other unwanted effects. Calcite, iron (II) hydroxide, hydroxyapatite, and similar minerals, had shifts in saturation indices that generally were from undersaturation toward equilibrium and, in some cases, toward oversaturation. These shifts toward neutral saturation indices might suggest reduced weathering of the minerals present in the Equus Beds aquifer. Chemical weathering in the shallow parts of the aquifer may be accelerated because of the increased water temperatures and the system is more vulnerable to clogged pores and mineral dissolution as the equilibrium state is affected by recharge and withdrawal. When oversaturation is indicated for iron minerals, plugging of aquifer materials may happen.

Suggested Citation

Stone, M.L., Garrett, J.D., Poulton, B.C., and Ziegler, A.C., 2016, Effects of aquifer storage and recovery activities on water quality in the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds aquifer, south-central Kansas, 2011–14: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5024, 88 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165042.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Effects of Aquifer Storage and Recovery Activities on Water Quality in the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds Aqifer
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Water-Quality Data of the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds Aquifer, Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project, South-Central Kansas, 2011–14
  • Appendix 2. S+® Output of Regression Model Development and Graphs from Simple Linear Regression Analysis

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Effects of aquifer storage and recovery activities on water quality in the Little Arkansas River and Equus Beds Aquifer, south-central Kansas, 2011–14
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5042
DOI 10.3133/sir20165042
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Kansas Water Science Center
Description Report: xii, 88 p.; Appendix Files
Country United States
State Kansas
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y