Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 1998


Published in Great Plains Research 8 (Spring 1998):39-56. Copyright © 1998 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


Small wetlands in the semi-arid northern prairie region are focal points for groundwater recharge. Hence the groundwater recharge function of the wetlands is an important consideration in development of wetland conservation policies. Most of the groundwater recharge from the wetlands flows to the moist margins of the wetlands and serves to maintain high evapotranspiration by the vegetation surrounding the wetlands. Only a small portion of the recharged water flows to regional aquifers, but this portion is important for sustaining groundwater resources. Wetland drainage eliminates the local flow systems, but may have little effects on regional aquifers other than a slight lowering of the groundwater levels. Further research should focus on the effects of wetland drainage on regional groundwater levels, the role of small ephemeral ponds in groundwater recharge, and the contribution of groundwater inflow to the water balance of large permanent wetlands.