Jump to Main Content
Review: Recharge rates and chemistry beneath playas of the High Plains aquifer, USA
- Gurdak, Jason J., Roe, Cassia D.
- Hydrogeology journal 2010 v.18 no.8 pp. 1747-1772
- aquifers, chemistry, floors, groundwater, models, playas, sediments, water potential, Midwestern United States
- Playas are ephemeral, closed-basin wetlands that are hypothesized as an important source of recharge to the High Plains aquifer in central USA. The ephemeral nature of playas, low regional recharge rates, and a strong reliance on groundwater from the High Plains aquifer has prompted many questions regarding the contribution and quality of recharge from playas to the High Plains aquifer. As a result, there has been considerable scientific debate about the potential for water to infiltrate the relatively impermeable playa floors, travel through the unsaturated zone sediments that are tens of meters thick, and subsequently recharge the High Plains aquifer. This critical review examines previously published studies on the processes that control recharge rates and chemistry beneath playas. Reported recharge rates beneath playas range from less than 1.0 to more than 500 mm/yr and are generally 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than recharge rates beneath interplaya settings. Most studies support the conceptual model that playas are important zones of recharge to the High Plains aquifer and are not strictly evaporative pans. The major findings of this review provide science-based implications for management of playas and groundwater resources of the High Plains aquifer and directions for future research.