US Geological Survey


Document Type


Date of this Version



AAPG Bulletin, v. 99, no. 10 (October 2015), pp. 1861–1892


US Govt work.


Potentiometric surfaces for Paleozoic strata, based on water well levels and selected drill-stem tests, reveal the control on hydraulic head exerted by outcrops in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. From outcrop in the east, the westward climb of hydraulic head is much less than that of the land surface, with heads falling so far below land surface that the pressure:depth ratio in eastern Colorado is less than 5.7 kPa/m (0.25 psi/ft). Permian evaporites separate the Paleozoic hydrogeologic units from a Lower Cretaceous (Dakota Group) aquifer, and a highly saline brine plume pervading Paleozoic units in central Kansas and Oklahoma is attributed to dissolution of Permian halite. Underpressure also exists in the Lower Cretaceous hydrogeologic unit in the Denver Basin, which is hydrologically separate from the Paleozoic units. The data used to construct the seven potentiometric surfaces were also used to construct seven maps of pressure:depth ratio. These latter maps are a function of the differences among hydraulic head, landsurface elevation, and formation elevation. As a consequence, maps of pressure:depth ratio reflect the interplay of three topologies that evolved independently with time. As underpressure developed, gas migrated in response to the changing pressure regime, most notably filling the Hugoton gas field in southwestern Kansas. The timing of underpressure development was determined by the timing of outcrop exposure and tilting of the Great Plains. Explorationists in western Kansas and eastern Colorado should not be surprised if a reservoir is underpressured; rather, they should be surprised if it is not.