What if fresh water like oil was treated as a critical economic resource in 1960? What if billions of dollars had been invested in ground water exploration over the past 50 years? What if geologists had considered new paradigms and exploration technologies to discover and develop ground water?
Instead of believing that ground water resources increased by zero percent in the past 50 years, an ocean of water could have been discovered as has been the case in the oil and gas fields of the nation.
There is a new paradigm which we call the “megawatershed,” and it has succeeded in uncovering large new reserves of water in many parts of the world in recent decades. As in the oil patch, private enterprise lead the way taking the risks and being open to innovation.
Conventional wisdom that has kept ground water development in the 19th century assumes the earth’s crust is effectively impermeable and not a significant source of renewable sustainable fresh water.
The megawatershed model recognizes that Earth’s mountains and the crust in general are pervasively fractured, hydraulically conductive and exposed to water infiltration, especially in mountainous areas where high rainfall occurs and bedrock is most fractured.
A Megawatershed is a collection of deep fractured rocks which carry water from highly fractured topographic areas traveling well below shallow aquifer systems and ultimately discharge into rivers, streams and lakes, or near coastal areas, into the ocean. They require geographic areas that have been tectonically disturbed (shifting crustal plates ) resulting in fractured rock systems, rock formations which aid in the enlargement of fractures, topographic areas where rainfall moves water into and through surficial openings and major rainfall events which feed these fracture systems.
Kansas has plenty of brittle crustal rocks existing in its pre-Cambrian basement, and overlain by brittle sedimentary strata. The Nemaha uplift is a deep fault zone that runs NE-SW across eastern Kansas. Tectonic events that build megawatersheds have occurred in Kansas which produced the Midcontinent Rift System creating a 1200 mile long valley of deep structurally disturbed rock.
Currently there is little information available to assess the hydraulic conductivity of these significant structural systems, but such information is readily available in the well logs of the thousands of oil wells existing in Kansas. There are definitely adequate rainfall events to supply a megawatershed if the hydraulic connectivity can be shown to exist.
We calculate the potential for the existence of a megawatershed in any area by an analysis of its tectonic history which we give a maximum score of ten, its resulting geologic structure also gets a ten, along with the type of rock involved. The type and extent of precipitation gets a maximum score of seven, while its topography (hills and valleys) and the size of the potential catchment area each get up to five points. Thus, the ideal potential for a megawatershed would receive a score of 47.
Our cursory analysis of Kansas yields a score of 38, which is very high. The actual identification and development of a major source of previously undetected deep ground water in fractured bedrock terrain involves a complex exploration process and must be accomplished by an experienced interdisciplinary team. Kansas should undertake such a study.