Geology and ground-water resources of the Lake Dakota Plain area, South Dakota

Water Supply Paper 1539-T
By:  and 



The Lake Dakota plain area is a nearly flat surface that includes parts of Spink, Brown, Marshall, and Day Counties in northeastern South Dakota. Agriculture is the principal occupation. Because precipitation often is insufficient for maximum crop production, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has developed a plan for irrigation of the area. Most of the irrigation water would be conveyed by canal from a reservoir on the Missouri River, about 100 miles to the west, but some would be obtained locally from the James River.

The surface of the Precambrian rocks, which underlie the area at a depth of 1,200 to 1,500 feet, is the lower limit to which water wells are drilled. Most of the producing wells in the area tap the Dakota sandstone, which has an average thickness of about 400 feet and rests on the Precambrian rocks. The Dakota is not recharged locally; water percolates into the Lake Dakota plain area principally from areas of recharge to the west. Because the aggregate discharge from wells tapping the Dakota exceeds the estimated rate of lateral percolation into the area, some of the discharged water probably is derived from storage. Although the artesian pressure is still sufficient to cause wells to flow, it is much less now than it was when the first wells were drilled in the 1880's. Water from the Dakota is highly mineralized; the specific conductance of water from 71 wells ranged from 2,590 to 4,380 micromhos per centimeter. Most of the water was of the sodium sulfate type and was soft. By recognized standards the water is chemically unsuitable for most uses, but for many years it has been the principal source of supply both on farms and in the municipalities. Use of the water for irrigation is reported to have made the soil unproductive.

The Dakota is overlain by younger Cretaceous rocks aggregating 700 to 800 feet in thickness. These rocks, which consist of shale and limestone, generally are too nearly impermeable to be a source of water supply.

Unconsolidated deposits of Quaternary age mantle the Cretaceous rocks. Although they consist mostly of material that is too fine grained to yield water freely to wells, the Quaternary deposits contain bodies of moderately to highly permeable material that yield water copiously. Such bodies may be located only by exploratory drilling or, possibly, geophysical methods. The water differs widely in amount of mineralization and in chemical composition; the specific conductance of water from 322 wells ranged from 246 to 13,300 micromhos per centimeter. In most of the report area the water is of unsuitable quality for irrigation and domestic use. The principal source of recharge to the Quaternary deposits is infiltrating precipitation. Evapotranspiration accounts for nearly all the water discharged; the amount of water discharging into stream channels and withdrawn from wells is almost negligible by comparison. Irrigation of the area would increase the rate of recharge to the Quaternary deposits and would cause the water table to rise. Probably it would also cause an increase in the concentration of dissolved minerals in much of the ground water. Artificial drainage would be necessary to prevent waterlogging of cropland.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geology and ground-water resources of the Lake Dakota Plain area, South Dakota
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 1539
Chapter T
DOI 10.3133/wsp1539T
Year Published 1963
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Print Office
Publisher location Washington, DC
Description Report: v, 68 p.; 3 Plates: 26.00 x 40.33 inches or smaller
Country United States
State South Dakota
Other Geospatial Lake Dakota Plain
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details