USGS News

Wichita’s Water-Use Strategy Helps Preserve the Equus Beds Aquifer

Summary: Wichita’s water-use strategy has helped preserve the Equus Beds aquifer during the recent drought of 2011-12, according to a new report released by the U.S. Geological Survey and prepared in cooperation with the city of Wichita.

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



Wichita’s water-use strategy has helped preserve the Equus Beds aquifer during the recent drought of 2011-12, according to a new report released by the U.S. Geological Survey and prepared in cooperation with the city of Wichita.

The Equus Beds aquifer is one of the primary water-supply sources for the city of Wichita, Kansas. Groundwater pumping for municipal and irrigation needs and sporadic drought conditions have caused water-level declines leading to concerns about the adequacy of the future water supply for Wichita. For this reason, the City of Wichita developed a strategy to reduce the amount of water it pumped from the Equus Beds aquifer from about 60 to 40 percent of the total usage.

Compared to the record low water levels in 1993, average water levels in the Equus Beds aquifer in winter 2013 rose four to six feet higher in the Wichita well field than in the entire surrounding 189-square mile study area. These rises occurred despite increased irrigation pumpage and decreased precipitation during 2011 and 2012.  Streamflows in the Little Arkansas River were too low during most of 2011 and 2012 for Wichita to use river water for artificial recharge. As a result, Wichita artificially recharged 37 million gallons in 2011-12, which was much less than the average of about 265 million gallons it recharged annually in 2007-10.

"Reports such as this one help the city of Wichita to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy of increased withdrawals from Cheney reservoir to minimize water-level declines in the Equus Beds aquifer by decreased pumping in the past 20 years," said Alan King, city of Wichita Director of Public Works. "Wichita is pleased to see that during the 2011-12 drought that this strategy was a benefit to the aquifer and all the people who depend on it."

The aquifer storage-volume increase since 1993 was larger in the Wichita well field than in the entire study area in Harvey and Sedgwick Counties by more than 3 billion gallons in summer 2012 and winter 2013. This happened during a time where irrigation pumping increased by three percent in the Wichita well field area and 24 percent in the rest of the larger study area. Precipitation levels were also only about two-thirds to three-fourths of the long-term average precipitation of 31.38 inches during 2011and 2012. This indicates the storage-volume increases in the Wichita well field were offset by declines and decreases in storage volume in the rest of the study area.

The USGS report was prepared as part of the USGS Cooperative Water Program with the city of Wichita as part of their Equus Beds Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project, an effort to increase the amount of groundwater storage and maintain water quality in the aquifer by artificially recharging treated water from the Little Arkansas River into the aquifer. Additional historical information about the project can be found online.

In 1993, the city of Wichita adopted the Integrated Local Water Supply Program (now part of the ASR program) to ensure an adequate water supply through 2050. By decreasing the proportion of water Wichita pumps from the Equus Beds aquifer, water levels in the aquifer decline less and the movement of the brine plume toward the Wichita well field is slowed. In 2007, the city of Wichita began to use the Equus Beds ASR facilities to artificially recharge the aquifer with excess water from the Little Arkansas River. Artificial recharge is being used to raise groundwater levels, increase storage volume in the aquifer, and slow down the plume of chloride brine approaching the Wichita well field from Burrton, Kansas. The chloride plume was caused by oil production activities in the 1930s. Another source of high chloride water to the aquifer is the Arkansas River.

The USGS will continue to work with the city of Wichita to monitor the water-level and storage-volume changes in the Equus Beds aquifer.

More information is available on USGS efforts related to defining and understanding the water quantity and quality of the Equus beds at http://ks.water.usgs.gov/equus-beds-recharge.

USGS provides information in a number of states related to preservation of water supplies in artificial recharge and aquifer storage and recovery. For more information visit http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/artificial_recharge.html.

Subsidence in Southern Colorado Linked to Gas Production and Earthquakes

Summary: New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite radar observations (interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR) to show that there is significant vertical deformation, or ground subsidence, in the Raton Basin, likely caused by methane and water withdrawal from coal beds. Also, there is no evidence for shallow volcanic activity throughout the observation period.

Alternatively, the August, 2011, earthquake occurred close to several wastewater disposal wells during times when injection was occurring. Aspects of the earthquake rupture, including the location of slip, the style of faulting and the statistics of the 2011 earthquake aftershock sequence, suggest that the earthquake was likely caused by a slip on a naturally stressed fault that was triggered by the fluid disposal.

The InSAR analysis provides a new method of looking at earthquake location and dimensions, allowing USGS and other scientists to further explore relationships between fluid extraction and injection, induced seismicity, local geology and hydrological systems. The satellite data also provide a check on the seismological observations that are most commonly used to analyze induced seismicity, and allow scientists to explore deformation that does not produce seismic signals.

Low-flying Helicopter Surveying Groundwater and Geology in the Poplar River Valley Area, Montana

Summary: Citizens should not be alarmed if they see a low-flying helicopter towing a large wire-loop contraption hanging from a cable in the Poplar, Montana area during the next couple of weeks.

Contact Information:

Joanna Thamke ( Phone: 406-422-6843 ); Lyndsay  Ball ( Phone: 614-747-0626 ); Deb Madison ( Phone: 406-480-5041 );



Citizens should not be alarmed if they see a low-flying helicopter towing a large wire-loop contraption hanging from a cable in the Poplar, Montana area during the next couple of weeks.

Starting on or about Tuesday, October 28 and lasting for five to 10 days, a low-flying helicopter under contract to the Ft. Peck Office of Environmental Protection and in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, will begin collecting and recording geophysical measurements over the lower Poplar River Valley and surrounding areas for scientific research purposes. 

The SkyTEM helicopter-borne geophysical system will collect measurements near the Poplar River Valley and surrounding areas that include the town of Poplar and Highway 2. The flight will cover an area approximately 10-miles-wide by 20-miles-long, and fly low to the ground back and forth to measure the electrical properties of the earth. 

Data collected during this survey will assist USGS scientists to map the shale layer underneath the Poplar River Valley that limits groundwater movement, and in assessing potential effects from past energy development in the East Poplar oil field.  This survey is a follow-up to a similar helicopter-based study in 2004 of the same area and published in USGS Open-File Report 2006-1216.

The company conducting the geophysical survey under contract to the Ft. Peck Office of Environmental Protection is Native American Helicopters, based in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.  The helicopter is controlled by experienced pilots who are specially trained for low-level flying required for geophysical surveys.  The company works with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law. 

More information about this project can be found here:
http://wy-mt.water.usgs.gov/projects/east_poplar/index.html
http://www.fortpeckoep.org/activities_east_poplar/project_3.html

Editor:  In the public interest and in accordance with FAA regulations, the USGS is announcing this low-level airborne project. Your assistance in informing the local communities is appreciated.

[Access images for this release at: <a href="http://gallery.usgs.gov/tags/NR2014_10_27" _mce_href="http://gallery.usgs.gov/tags/NR2014_10_27">http://gallery.usgs.gov/tags/NR2014_10_27</a>]

New Maine Maps Feature National Scenic Trails

Summary: Newly released US Topo maps for Maine now feature segments of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.)

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Matt Robinson ( Phone: 304-535-4010 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



Newly released US Topo maps for Maine now feature segments of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.).  Several of the 715 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display parts of the A.T. along with other improved data layers. 

“Located within a day’s drive of 2/3rds of the U.S. population and open year-around to all visitors, the Appalachian Trail is America’s most readily accessible long-distance footpath,” said Matt Robinson, National Park Service GIS Specialist for the A.T. “Having its route accurately depicted on these new US Topo maps just makes it even more accessible to all who wish to explore this great resource.” 

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a public footpath that traverses more than 2,100 miles of the Appalachian mountains and valleys between Katahdin, Maine (northern terminus), and Springer Mountain, Georgia (southern terminus). It winds through scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands along this ancient mountain range. With more than 99% of the A.T.’s corridor on Federal or State land, it is the longest continuously marked, maintained, and publicly protected trail in the United States.

The USGS partnered with the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to incorporate the trail data onto the Maine US Topo maps. This NST joins the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as being featured on the new US Topo quads. The USGS hopes to eventually include all National Scenic Trails in The National Map products.

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for Maine and are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection

To download US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

The National Trails System was established by Act of Congress in 1968. The Act grants the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture authority over the National Trails System. The Act defines four types of trails. Two of these types, the National Historic Trails and National Scenic Trails, can only be designated by Act of Congress. National scenic trails are extended trails located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass.

There are 11 National Scenic Trails:
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
  • North Country National Scenic Trail
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Florida National Scenic Trail
  • Arizona National Scenic Trail
  • New England National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
(high resolution image) 2014 US Topo map of Maine, Monson West quadrangle with orthoimage layer turned on. (high resolution image) 1951 USGS legacy topographic map of the Monson West (Maine) quadrangle, 1:62,500 scale. (high resolution image)

Science and Policy Working Together to Help the Delta

Summary: Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science Learn How the Disciplines Collaborate at the Bay-Delta Science Conference

Contact Information:

Eric Alvarez, DSC ( Phone: 916-275-7923 ); Leslie  Gordon, USGS ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science. Fostering that collaboration is the backdrop for the 8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference, October 28-30, 2014, jointly sponsored by the Delta Stewardship Council and the U.S. Geological Survey. More than 1,000 scientists, managers, and policymakers will gather in Sacramento to discuss the latest advances in scientific information and ideas on water resource management in the Delta, its watershed, and the San Francisco Estuary.

“Policies addressing California’s current drought, ensuring long-term water supplies, and protecting the health of the Bay-Delta environment must be based on the best available science,” said Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary of the Interior and the department’s lead water policymaker. “The Department of the Interior commends the Delta Stewardship Council and USGS for setting up this conference to bring decision makers together with scientists.”

“This is a major conference that highlights the most recent discoveries that influence management decisions on the Delta,” said Dr. Peter Goodwin, lead scientist for the Delta Science Program. “These discoveries include: how to anticipate and prepare for severe storms; assessing the risk of mercury impacts and new ways to minimize those impacts; and the importance of floodplains as fish food producers.”

The Delta, formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the hub of both the state and federal water projects, and a region of agriculture and recreational importance. These often conflicting uses have bedeviled policy makers and scientists for decades.

This year’s theme is “Making Connections,” in the spirit of “One Delta, One Science,” and highlights how management of the Bay-Delta ecosystem is at a critical juncture. Political and regulatory mandates require new ways of managing water exports while also restoring landscape-level ecosystem attributes and functions. To support these activities, scientists must make connections among the external forces that impact the system, management actions, and ecosystem responses. Equally critical is a two-way flow of communication between scientists and managers to better understand their respective needs, available resources, and ideas.

The conference will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street, and begins with a plenary session at 9:00 a.m. on October 28. Participants include: Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary of the Interior as an invited speaker; Council Chair Randy Fiorini talking about the need for science that can influence strategies, planning, and behaviors that affect the environment; Dr. Goodwin highlighting six things the Delta science community has learned in the last two years; Delta Independent Science Board member Dr. Stephen Brandt talking about habitat quality from a fish’s perspective; and former Interagency Ecological Program Lead Scientist and current Associate Director for Projects at the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Anke Mueller-Solger, discussing new approaches to resolving scientific uncertainties in the estuary.

Several special sessions include: a discussion on the management of water and the ecosystem’s health through a drought; whether or not climate science can influence public policy in an era of drought; and “Funding the Delta’s Fiscal Orphans: Science, Governance, and Ecosystem Stress Relief” with an opening presentation by Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California.

The Delta Science Program partners with the Delta Conservancy in a discussion on Policy, Floodplains, and Toxics. This includes a session on implementing the Delta Science Plan followed by a presentation on the Interim Science Action Agenda. There will also be highlights of June’s Data Summit where a new era in information management and knowledge discovery was discussed.

The conference also features sessions on water policy including: predicting outcomes and working towards reconciliation; and the direct and indirect effects of large-scale restoration and its implications for science and management. A presentation on the Delta Independent Science Board’s comments regarding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its reliance on habitat restoration is also scheduled. Approximately 185 posters will also be available for viewing during receptions on Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. on the 1st floor of the Convention Center.

This year’s conference is co-chaired by Dr. Lenny Grimaldo, a fish biologist and water resource manager at ICF International, and Dr. Wim Kimmerer, a marine biology research professor at San Francisco State University.  More information is available at Science Conference 2014.