Hydrologic Conditions and Budgets for the Black Hills of South Dakota, Through Water Year 1998

By Daniel G. Driscoll and Janet M. Carter



Water Resources Investigation Report 01-4226


Prepared in cooperation with the

South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
and the West Dakota Water Development District


This report is available as a pdf below


The Black Hills are an important recharge area for aquifers in the northern Great Plains. The surface-water hydrology of the area is highly influenced by interactions with the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers, including large springs and streamflow loss zones. Defining responses of ground water and streamflow to a variety of hydrogeologic influences is critical to development of hydrologic budgets for ground- and surface-water systems.

Hydrographs for 52 observation wells and 1 cave site are used to show ground-water response to cumulative precipitation departures. Aquifers considered include the Precambrian, Deadwood, Madison, Minnelusa, Minnekahta, and Inyan Kara aquifers, with wells completed in the Inyan Kara aquifer generally showing small response to precipitation patterns. Many wells completed in the other aquifers have large short- and long-term fluctuations in water levels. Madison and Minnelusa wells in the southern Black Hills show a general tendency for smaller water-level fluctuations than in other areas.

Streamflow characteristics and relations with precipitation are examined for 33 gaging stations representative of five different hydrogeologic settings that are identified. The “limestone headwater” setting occurs within outcrops of the Madison Limestone and Minnelusa Formation along the “Limestone Plateau,” where direct runoff is uncommon and streamflow consists almost entirely of base flow originating as ground-water discharge from headwater springs. Thus, variability in daily, monthly, and annual flow is small. Annual streamflow correlates poorly with precipitation; however, consideration of “moving averages” (involving up to 11 years of annual precipitation data for some stations) improves relations substantially.

The “crystalline core” area is encircled by the outcrop band of the Madison and Minnelusa Formations and is dominated by igneous and metamorphic rocks. Base flow ranges from about 41 to 73 percent for representative streams; however, monthly flow records demonstrate shortterm response to precipitation, which probably indicates a relatively large component of interflow. Streamflow generally correlates well with annual precipitation, with r2 values ranging from 0.52 to 0.87.

Downgradient from the crystalline core area is the “loss zone” setting, where streamflow losses occur to outcrops of the Madison and Minnelusa Formations. Relations between streamflow and annual precipitation are defined by a power equation for the only two representative gages in this setting. The loss zone and “artesian spring” areas are combined because many artesian springs are located along stream channels that are influenced by streamflow losses and several artesian springs are within outcrops of the Minnelusa Formation. Streamflow characteristics for artesian springs generally have small variability and poor correlations with annual precipitation because of large influence from relatively stable ground-water discharge. The “exterior” setting is located downgradient from the outcrop of the Inyan Kara Group, which coincides with the outer extent of the loss zone/artesian spring setting. Large flow variability is characteristic for this setting, and base flow generally is smaller than for other settings.

Basin yields are highly variable, with the largest yields occurring in high-altitude areas of the northern Black Hills that receive large annual precipitation. Relations between annual yield efficiency and precipitation were applied by previous investigators in developing a method for estimating annual precipitation recharge, based on annual precipitation. The resulting “yield-efficiency algorithm” compares spatial distributions for annual precipitation, average annual precipitation, and efficiency of basin yield. This algorithm is applied in estimating precipitation recharge on aquifer outcrops and in estimating streamflow yield from various outcrop areas, for purposes of developing average hydrologic budgets for water years 1950-98.

For the entire study area, precipitation averaged 18.98 inches or about 5.2 million acre-ft per year. Of this amount, total yield is estimated as 441,000 acre-ft per year (608 ft3/s), which is equivalent to 1.59 inches over the study area. Ground-water budgets are developed for the major bedrock aquifers within the study area (Deadwood, Madison, Minnelusa, Minnekahta, and Inyan Kara aquifers) and for additional minor bedrock aquifers. Annual recharge to all bedrock aquifers is estimated as 252,000 acre-ft per year (348 ft3/s), of which 292 ft3/s is recharge to the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers. Of this amount, 200 ft3/s is from precipitation recharge and 92 ft3/s is from streamflow losses. Discharge of all wells and springs is about 259 ft3/s, of which the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers account for 206 ft3/s of springflow and 28 ft3/s of well withdrawals. Estimated springflow and well withdrawals from the Deadwood aquifer are 12.6 ft3/s and 1.4 ft3/s, respectively. Estimated well withdrawals from other aquifers account for about 11 ft3/s. These estimates are used in calculating net ground-water outflow (outflow minus inflow) from the study area as 89 ft3/s, which is dominated by net ground-water outflow of 58 ft3/s from the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers.

Surface-water inflows and outflows average 252 and 553 ft3/s, respectively. Reservoir storage increased by about 7 ft3/s during 1950-98; thus, net tributary flows (flows less depletions) generated within the study area are calculated as 308 ft3/s. Consideration of combined ground- and surface-water budgets is used to estimate consumptive streamflow withdrawals of 140 ft3/s. Total consumptive use is estimated as 218 ft3/s, by including estimates of reservoir evaporation and storage changes (38 ft3/s) and well withdrawals (40 ft3/s).

The largest error potential associated with development of hydrologic budgets is the use of yield-efficiency algorithm for estimating precipitation recharge and streamflow yield. The ability to balance overall hydrologic budgets within realistic ranges provides confidence that the method systematically produces reasonable estimates when applied over sufficiently large spatial extents and time frames. This conclusion is especially important because estimation of precipitation recharge for the Madison and Minnelusa aquifers is critical to developing realistic hydrologic budgets for the Black Hills area.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Physiography, Land Use, and Climate

Water Use



Hydrologic Processes and Conditions

Hydrologic Processes

Precipitation Data and Patterns

Ground-Water Response to Precipitation

Streamflow Response to Precipitation

Hydrogeologic Settings

Responses to Precipitation

Long-Term Trends

Relations Between Streamflow and Precipitation

Annual Yield Characteristics

Hydrologic Budgets

Ground-Water Budgets

Budget for Madison and Minnelusa Aquifers

Budgets for Other Bedrock Aquifers

Surface-Water Budgets

Combined Ground- and Surface-Water Budgets

Quantification of Combined Budgets

Streamflow Depletions and Consumptive Withdrawals

Quantification of Depletions and Consumptive Withdrawals

Evluation of Consumptive Withdrawal Estimates

General Evaluation of Budget Estimates



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