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Hydrologic and chemical interaction of the Arkansas River and the Equus Beds aquifer between Hutchinson and Wichita, south-central Kansas

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4191

Prepared in cooperation with the Kansas Water Office, the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District No. 2, and the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior
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Abstract

Large chloride concentrations in Arkansas River water have the potential to degrade water quality in the adjacent Equus beds aquifer between Hutchinson and Wichita, Kansas. The aquifer is an important source of water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and domestic uses.

A three-dimensional, finite-difference, ground-water flow-model program (MODFLOW) was used with data from past studies and data collected during 1988-91 to simulate aquifer and stream conditions during the late 1930's, during 1940-89, and during 1990-2019. Results of ground-water flow-model simulations indicated that declining water levels in the Equus beds aquifer since the 1940's have caused base flow in the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers to decrease. In 1940, the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers had simulated net base-flow gains within the model area of about 21 and about 67 ft3/s (cubic feet per second), respectively. By the end of 1989, the Arkansas River had a simulated net base-flow loss of about 52 ft3/s, and the Little Arkansas River had a net base-flow gain of about 27 ft3/s. Simulations for 1990-2019 showed that the water-level changes in a selected model cell located in the central part of the Wichita well field could range from -0.2 to -78 feet. Waterlevel changes in a selected model cell located near the Arkansas River could range from +1.3 to -1.2 feet. In model simulations where only pumpage varied, net base-flow loss from the Arkansas River to the aquifer ranged from about 59 ft3/s (no increase in pumpage since 1989) to 117 ft3/s (a 3-percent per year increase in pumpage since 1989) by 2019.

Assuming a chloride concentration of 630 milligrams per liter, the median concentration in Arkansas River water collected during 1988-91, the quantity of chloride discharged from the Arkansas River to the aquifer was estimated to have increased from about 21 tons per day in 1940 to about 100 tons per day in 1989. By 2019, chloride discharge was indicated to range from about 110 tons per day (associated with no increase in pumpage since 1989) to 200 tons per day (associated with a 3-percent per year increase in pumpage since 1989).

A particle-tracking program (MODPATH), which used the results from the flow model, was used to simulate the distribution in the aquifer of chloride from the river during the same time periods. Particle-tracking simulations show that, during 1940-89, the simulated distribution of particles representing chloride from the Arkansas River expanded from relatively narrow bands near the river to a wider distribution within the aquifer and the Wichita well field. Particle-tracking simulations indicate that chloride discharge from the Arkansas River may have reached the edge of the Wichita well field as early as 1963.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrologic and chemical interaction of the Arkansas River and the Equus Beds aquifer between Hutchinson and Wichita, south-central Kansas
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
95-4191
Year Published:
1996
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Description:
Report: viii, 100 p.; 2 Plates: 27.30 x 41.80 inches and 34.95 x 36.18 inches
Country:
United States
State:
Kansas