Geohydrology and water quality of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1986-88

Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4028

Prepared in cooperation with Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Division, and Kalamazoo County



Thick, glacial sand and gravel deposits provide most ground-water supplies in Kalamazoo County. These deposits range in thickness from 50 to about 600 feet in areas that overlie buried bedrock valleys. Most domestic wells completed at depths of less than 75 feet in the sands and gravels yield adequate water supplies. Most industry, public supply, and irrigation wells completed at depths of 100 to 200 feet yield 1,000 gallons per minute or more. The outwash plains include the most productive of the glacial aquifers in the county. The Coldwater Shale of Mississippian age, which underlies the glacial deposits in most of the county, usually yields only small amounts of largely mineralized water.

Ground-water levels in Kalamazoo County reflect short- and long-term changes in precipitation and local pumpage. Ground-water levels increase in the spring and decline in the fall.

Ground-water recharge rates, for different geologic settings, were estimated from ground-water runoff to the streams. Recharge rates ranged from 10.86 to 5.87 inches per year. A countywide-average ground-water recharge rate is estimated to be 9.32 inches per year.

Chemical quality of precipitation and dry fallout at two locations in Kalamazoo County were similar to that of other areas in the State. Total deposition of dissolved sulfate is 30.7 pounds per acre per year, of total nitrogen is 13.2 pounds per acre per year, and of total phosphorus is 0.3 pounds per acre per year. Rainfall and snow data indicated that the pH of precipitation is inversely proportional to its specific conductance.

Water of streams and rivers of Kalamazoo County is predominately of the calcium bicarbonate type, although dissolved sulfate concentrations are slightly larger in streams in the southeastern and northwestern parts of the county. The water in most streams is hard to very hard. Concentrations of dissolved chloride in streams draining urban-industrial areas are slightly larger than at other locations. Concentrations of total nitrogen and total phosphorus in streams are directly proportional to streamflow. Except for elevated concentrations of iron, none of the trace elements in streams exceeded maximum contaminant levels for drinking water established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticides were detected in some streams.

Ground water in the surficial aquifers is of the calcium bicarbonate type, although sodium, sulfate, and chloride ions predominate at some locations. Specific conductance and hardness and concentrations of total dissolved-solids slightly exceed statewide averages. Concentrations of dissolved sodium and dissolved chloride in 6 wells were greater than most natural ground waters in the State, indicating possible contamination from road salts. Water samples from 6 of the 46 wells sampled contained concentrations of total nitrate as nitrogen greater than 10.0 milligrams per liter. Elevated concentrations of total nitrate as nitrogen in water from wells in rural-agricultural areas probably are related to fertilizer applications. Results of partial chemical analyses by the Michigan Department of Public Health indicates specific conductance, and concentrations of hardness, dissolved fluoride, and total iron are fairly uniform throughout the county. Concentrations of dissolved sodium, dissolved chloride, and total nitrate as nitrogen differed among townships. Pesticides were detected in water from only one well. Water from five wells contained volatile organics.

A map of susceptibility of ground water to contamination in Kalamazoo County was developed using a system created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Seven geohydrologic factors that affect and control ground-water movement are mapped and composited onto a countywide map. All seven factors have some effect on countywide susceptibility, but the most important factors are depth to water and composition of the materials above the aquifer.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geohydrology and water quality of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1986-88
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Lansing, MI
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
Document: x, 102 p.; 3 Plates: 39.20 x 33.65 inches or smaller
United States
Kalamazoo County