Playas are ephemeral, closed-basin wetlands that are important zones of recharge to the High Plains (or Ogallala) aquifer and critical habitat for birds and other wildlife in the otherwise semiarid, shortgrass prairie and agricultural landscape. The ephemeral nature of playas, low regional recharge rates, and a strong reliance on ground water from the High Plains aquifer has prompted many questions regarding the contribution of recharge from playas to the regional aquifer.
To address these questions and concerns, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, present a review and synthesis of the more than 175 publications about recharge rates and chemistry beneath playas and interplaya settings. Although a number of questions remain regarding the controls on recharge rates and chemistry beneath playas, the results from most published studies indicate that recharge rates beneath playas are substantially (1 to 2 orders of magnitude) higher than recharge rates beneath interplaya settings. The synthesis presented here supports the conceptual model that playas are important zones of recharge to the High Plains aquifer and are not strictly evaporative pans. The major findings of this synthesis yield science-based implications for the protection and management of playas and ground-water resources of the High Plains aquifer and directions for future research.
First posted June 11, 2009
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Gurdak, J.J., and Roe, C.D., 2009, Recharge rates and chemistry beneath playas of the High Plains aquifer—A literature review and synthesis: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1333, 39 p.
Summary of Major Findings and Implications
Recharge Rates and Chemistry Beneath Playas
Conclusion Regarding Conceptual Model of Recharge Beneath Playas
Needs for Future Research
Appendix 1. Glossary
Appendix 2. Infiltration estimates beneath playas of the southern High Plains
Appendix 3. Recharge estimates for the southern High Plains