Hydrology of carbonate aquifers in southwestern Linn County and adjacent parts of Benton, Iowa, and Johnson Counties, Iowa

Water Supply Bulletin 15
By:  and 



Groundwater is the major source of water in Linn County and the surrounding area. Approximately 90 percent of the groundwater production is from Silurian, Devonian, and Quaternary aquifers.

The Silurian and Devonian aquifers consist of limestone and dolomite with minor shale beds, which have a regional dip to the southwest of approximately 20 feet per mile. The Silurian aquifer in east-central Iowa is confined from below by Upper Ordovician, Maquoketa Formation shales, and from above by the Kenwood Member of the Wapsipinicon Formation and the Otis and Bertram formations. The Quaternary aquifer consists of unconsolidated sand and gravel beds in the glacial drift, and in the alluvium which is associated with modern streams. The alluvium consists of lenticular beds of poorly-to well-sorted silt, sand, and gravel. The sand and gravel beds are interlayered with relatively-impermeable beds of till, silt, and clay.

Water moves through the Silurian aquifer in part due to a complex distribution of porous and dense carbonate facies. Horizons containing skeletal molds in the Silurian dolomite have porosities as much as 39 percent, and are laterally equivalent to dolomites with porosities as little as less than one percent. Because of subsequent fracturing and solutional enlargement of these porous horizons, hydrologic correlation of the primary water-yielding zones is not always possible. One horizon, however, does occur approximately 70 to 105 feet above the base of the Silurian, and is the most consistently productive water-yielding unit in the area. This horizon is Informally referred to as the Farmers Creek aquifer.

The potentiometric surface of the Silurian aquifer has a gradient towards the Cedar River, indicating discharge from the aquifer through the alluvium into the river. By comparison, the potentiometric surface of the overlying Devonian aquifer is equal to that of the Silurian and may range to more than 40 feet higher. Yields to individual wells completed in the Silurian and Devonian carbonate aquifers vary from less than 10 to about 500 gallons per minute. Individual wells completed in the Quaternary aquifer yield as much as 2,000 gallons per minute.

Water analyses from the Devonian and Silurian aquifers indicate that they are of similar chemical quality at most locations in the study area. However, they may commonly contain concentrations of sulfate that exceed 1,000 mil grams per liter. Dissolved-solids concentrations as much as 2,350 milligrams per liter occur in the Silurian aquifer in the western and southwestern part of the study area. Water from the Quaternary aquifer generally is suitable for most uses and dissolved-solids concentrations generally are less than 750 milligrams per liter.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Title Hydrology of carbonate aquifers in southwestern Linn County and adjacent parts of Benton, Iowa, and Johnson Counties, Iowa
Series title Water Supply Bulletin
Series number 15
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher State of Iowa
Publisher location Des Moines, IA
Contributing office(s) Iowa Water Science Center
Description ix, 56 p.
Country United States
State Iowa
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details