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Flow-System Analysis of the Madison and Minnelusa Aquifers in the Rapid City Area, South Dakota--
Conceptual Model

By Andrew J. Long and Larry D. Putnam

Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4185

Prepared in cooperation with the


The conceptual model of the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers in the Rapid City area synthesizes the physical geography, hydraulic properties, and ground-water flow components of these important aquifers. The Madison hydrogeologic unit includes the karstic Madison aquifer, which is defined as the upper, more permeable 100 to 200 ft of the Madison Limestone, and the Madison confining unit, which consists of the lower, less permeable part of the Madison Limestone and the Englewood Formation. Overlying the Madison hydrogeologic unit is the Minnelusa hydrogeologic unit, which includes the Minnelusa aquifer in the upper, more permeable 200 to 300 ft and the Minnelusa confining unit in the lower, less permeable part. The Madison and Minnelusa hydrogeologic units outcrop in the study area on the eastern flank of the Black Hills where recharge occurs from streamflow losses and areal recharge. The conceptual model describes streamflow recharge, areal recharge, ground-water flow, storage in aquifers and confining units, unsaturated areas, leakage between aquifers, discharge from artesian springs, and regional outflow.

Effective transmissivities estimated for the Madison aquifer range from 500 to 20,000 ft2/d and for the Minnelusa aquifer from 500 to 10,000 ft2/d. Localized anisotropic transmissivity in the Madison aquifer has tensor ratios as high as 45:1. Vertical hydraulic conductivities for the Minnelusa confining unit determined from aquifer tests range from 1.3x10-3 to 3.0x10-1 ft/d. The confined storage coefficient of the Madison and Minnelusa hydrogeologic units was estimated as 3x10-4 ft/d. Specific yield was estimated as 0.09 for the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers and 0.03 for the Madison and Minnelusa confining units. Potentiometric surfaces for the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers have a general easterly gradient of about 70 ft/mi with local variations. Temporal change in hydraulic head in the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers ranged from about 5 to 95 ft in water years 1988-97. The unconfined areas were estimated at about 53 and 36 mi2 for the Madison and Minnelusa hydrogeologic units, respectively, in contrast to an aquifer analysis area of 629 mi2.

Dye-tracer tests, stable isotopes, and hydrogeologic features were analyzed conjunctively to estimate generalized ground-water flowpaths in the Madison aquifer and their influences on the Minnelusa aquifer. The western Rapid City area between Boxelder Creek and Spring Creek was characterized as having undergone extensive tectonic activity, greater brecciation in the Minnelusa Formation, large transmissivities, generally upward hydraulic gradients from the Madison aquifer to the Minnelusa aquifer, many karst springs, and converging flowpaths.

Water-budget analysis included: (1) a dry-period budget for declining water levels; October 1, 1987, to March 31, 1993; (2) a wet-period budget for rising water levels, April 1, 1993, to September 30, 1997; and (3) a full 10-year period budget for water years 1988-97. By simultaneously balancing these water budgets, initial estimates of recharge, discharge, change in storage, and hydraulic properties were refined. Inflow rates for the 10-year budget included streamflow recharge of about 45 ft3/s or 61 percent of the total budget and areal recharge of 22 ft3/s or 30 percent. Streamflow recharge to the Madison hydrogeologic unit was about 86 percent of the total streamflow recharge. Outflow for the 10-year budget included springflow of 31 ft3/s or 42 percent of the total budget, water use of about 10 ft3/s or 14 percent, and regional outflow of 22 ft3/s or 30 percent. Ground-water storage increased 9 ft3/s during the 10-year period, and net ground-water movement from the Madison to Minnelusa hydrogeologic unit was about 8 ft3/s.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Previous Investigations


Hydrogeologic Setting

Madison Hydrogeologic Unit

Minnelusa Hydrogeologic Unit

Concepts of the Ground-Water-Flow System

General Concepts

Hydraulic Properties


Anisotropic Transmissivity

Vertical Hydraulic Conductivity

Specific Yield

Storage Coefficient

Hydraulic Head and Ground-Water Flow

Potentiometric Surfaces

Hydraulic Response to Recharge

Unconfined Areas


Water-Budget Analysis

General Concepts

Seepage from Deadwood Aquifer

Streamflow Recharge


Estimation of Streamflow Recharge

Continuously Gaged Streams

Battle Creek

Spring Creek

Rapid Creek

Boxelder Creek

Elk Creek

Ungaged Streams

Areal Recharge


Estimation of Areal Recharge


Estimation of Springflow

Jackson-Cleghorn Springs

City Springs

Deadwood Avenue Springs

Boxelder Springs and Elk Springs

Water Use

Estimation of Water Use

Rapid City Wells

Other Public-Supply Wells

Irrigation and Industrial Water Use

Leakage to Overlying Aquifers

Regional Outflow




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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, A.J. Long (605) 355-4560 ext.237.

For more information about USGS activities in South Dakota, visit the USGS South Dakota District home page.

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