Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5137

Prepared in cooperation with the city of Rapid City and the West Dakota Water Development District

Analysis of Ground-Water Flow in the Madison Aquifer using Fluorescent Dyes Injected in Spring Creek and Rapid Creek near Rapid City, South Dakota, 2003–04

By Larry D. Putnam and Andrew J. Long

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.6 MB)Download Publication
Scientific Investigations Report
2007-5137 PDF (1.6 MB)

The Madison aquifer, which contains fractures and solution openings in the Madison Limestone, is used extensively for water supplies for the city of Rapid City and other suburban communities in the Rapid City, S. Dak., area. The 48 square-mile study area includes the west-central and southwest parts of Rapid City and the outcrops of the Madison Limestone extending from south of Spring Creek to north of Rapid Creek. Recharge to the Madison Limestone occurs when streams lose flow as they cross the outcrop. The maximum net loss rate for Spring and Rapid Creek loss zones are 21 and 10 cubic feet per second (ft3/s), respectively. During 2003 and 2004, fluorescent dyes were injected in the Spring and Rapid Creek loss zones to estimate approximate locations of preferential flow paths in the Madison aquifer and to measure the response and transit times at wells and springs. Four injections of about 2 kilograms of fluorescein dye were made in the Spring Creek loss zone during 2003 (sites S1, S2, and S3) and 2004 (site S4). Injection at site S1 was made in streamflow just upstream from the loss zone over a 12-hour period when streamflow was about equal to the maximum loss rate. Injections at sites S2, S3, and S4 were made in specific swallow holes located in the Spring Creek loss zone. Injection at site R1 in 2004 of 3.5 kilograms of Rhodamine WT dye was made in streamflow just upstream from the Rapid Creek loss zone over about a 28-hour period. Selected combinations of 27 wells, 6 springs, and 3 stream sites were monitored with discrete samples following the injections.

For injections at sites S1–S3, when Spring Creek streamflow was greater than or equal to 20 ft3/s, fluorescein was detected in samples from five wells that were located as much as about 2 miles from the loss zone. Time to first arrival (injection at site S1) ranged from less than 1 to less than 10 days. The maximum fluorescein concentration (injection at site S1) of 120 micrograms per liter (μg/L) at well CO, which is located adjacent to the loss zone, was similar to the concentration in the stream. Fluorescein arrived at well NON (injection at site S1), which is located about 2 miles northeast of the loss zone, within about 1.6 days, and the maximum concentration was 44 μg/L. For injection at site S4, when streamflow was about 12 ft3/s, fluorescein was detected in samples from six wells and time to first arrival ranged from 0.2 to 16 days. Following injection at site S4 in 2004, the length of time that dye remained in the capture zone of well NON, which is located approximately 2 miles from the loss zone, was almost an order of magnitude greater than in 2003. For injection at site R1, Rhodamine WT was detected at well DRU and spring TI–SP with time to first arrival of about 0.5 and 1.1 days and maximum concentrations of 6.2 and 0.91 μg/L, respectively. Well DRU and spring TI–SP are located near the center of the Rapid Creek loss zone where the creek has a large meander. Measurable concentrations were observed for spring TI–SP as many as 109 days after the dye injection. The direction of a conduit flow path in the Spring Creek area was to the northeast with ground-water velocities that ranged from 770 to 6,500 feet per day. In the Rapid Creek loss zone, a conduit flow path east of the loss zone was not evident from the dye injection.

Version 1.0

Posted October 2007

Suggested citation:

Putnam, L.D., Long, A.J., 2007, Analysis of ground-water flow in the Madison aquifer using fluorescent dyes injected in Spring Creek and Rapid Creek near Rapid City, South Dakota, 2003–04: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5137, 27 p.




Purpose and Scope

Description of the Study Area

Previous Investigations


Hydrogeologic Setting


Streamflow Loss Zones

Spring Creek

Rapid Creek

Fluorescent Dye Tracing Methods

Dye Injections

Sampling Sites

Sample Collection

Sample Analysis


Rhodamine WT

Analysis of Ground-Water Flow Using Fluorescent Dyes

Concentrations and Transit Times of Fluorescent Dyes

Spring Creek Loss Zone

Fluorescein Injections in 2003

Fluorescein Injection in 2004

Rapid Creek Loss Zone

Analysis of Ground-Water Flow Paths and Velocities

Spring Creek Area

Rapid Creek Area


References Cited


Send questions or comments
about this report to

For more information about USGS activities in South Dakota, visit the USGS South Dakota Water Science Center home page.

Document Accessibility: Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat Reader, free of charge or go to for free tools that allow visually impaired users to read PDF files.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Thursday, December 01 2016, 07:49:21 PM