Trends in Groundwater Levels in and near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, Water Years 1956–2017

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5119
Prepared in cooperation with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe
By:  and 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, completed a study to characterize water-level fluctuations in observation wells to examine driving factors that affect water levels in and near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, which comprises all of Todd County. The study investigates concerns regarding potential effects of groundwater withdrawals and climate conditions on groundwater levels within an area that includes Todd County and a surrounding area that extends 10 miles north, east, and west of the county border. Characterization of water-level fluctuations in observation wells and relative driving factors was accomplished by statistical trend analysis.

Two statistical methods were used for analysis of temporal trends for climatic and hydrologic data. To determine which trend analysis to use, applicable datasets were tested for statistically significant short-term persistence (STP). In the absence of significant STP, existence of statistical trends was determined using the standard Mann-Kendall test for probability values less than or equal to 0.10 (90-percent confidence level); however, a modified Mann-Kendall test was used for datasets where statistically significant STP was detected. Trend magnitudes were computed using the Sen’s slope estimator.

Monthly data from the Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) were aggregated to obtain annual and seasonal datasets for total precipitation, minimum air temperature (Tmin), and maximum air temperature (Tmax) for the study area and a surrounding buffer area. Trend tests for total precipitation, Tmin, and Tmax were completed for annual and seasonal time series for water years 1956–2017, which is about 2 years before the earliest available water-level measurements. A 2-year offset was arbitrarily selected because scrutiny of water-level and precipitation data indicated that responses of groundwater levels for many of the observation wells lagged major changes in precipitation patterns by about 2 years. Statistically significant upward trends were detected for annual precipitation and annual Tmin for almost all of the study area and the surrounding buffer area. Statistically significant downward trends in Tmax were detected for a very small part of the study area; however, the sparse spatial coverage reduces confidence that these are true trends. Spatial distributions of statistically significant trends in seasonal climate data were generally similar to the annual trends, but with substantial differences in the spatial density of the trends.

Groundwater trends for 58 observation wells were analyzed for three separate water-level parameters (minimum, median, and maximum) because wells are measured sporadically and data are biased towards more frequent measurements during periods of heaviest irrigation demand. Trends in the time series of annual precipitation (from PRISM) starting 2 years earlier than for the associated water-level trend also were analyzed for the location of each individual observation well. Sen’s slope and Mann-Kendall probability values (p-values) were computed for the three water-level parameters and for the annual precipitation time series. Graphs showing results of trend analyses for each observation well also showed changes over time in the sum of licensed groundwater withdrawals within six specified radii (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 miles) of each well as a qualitative indicator of proximal groundwater demand.

Of all 58 observation wells considered, 28 wells had significant upward trends for at least one of the three water-level parameters, 11 wells had significant downward trends for at least one water-level parameter, and 19 wells did not have any significant trends. Significant upward trends in annual precipitation were detected for 48 of the 58 wells.

Results of trend analyses likely show the effects of groundwater withdrawals on water levels in the Ogallala aquifer in areas of substantial demand. Precipitation trends are significantly upward for 43 of the 48 wells completed in the Ogallala aquifer that were analyzed. Of the 48 Ogallala aquifer wells, 24 had significant upward trends for at least one water-level parameter (17 with all 3); however, 10 wells had statistically significant downward trends for at least one water-level parameter (8 with all 3 parameters). All but one of the wells with significant downward trends are located in the south-central part of the study area where licensed irrigation withdrawals are concentrated.

Suggested Citation

Valseth, K.J., and Driscoll, D.G., 2021, Trends in groundwater levels in and near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, water years 1956–2017: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5119, 46 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data Sources and Analytical Methods
  • Analysis of Trends
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1
  • Appendix 2
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Trends in groundwater levels in and near the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, water years 1956–2017
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5119
DOI 10.3133/sir20205119
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) South Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 46 p.; 2 Appendixes; Data Release
Country United States
State South Dakota
Other Geospatial Rosebud Indian Reservation
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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