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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Douglas D. Malo


The prairie pothole region consists of over 580,000 km2 (224,000 mi2) in North Central United States and South Central Canada (Fig. 1). Most prairie potholes were formed from melting ice fragments left from glacial activities and are seldom ponded more than 1 to 2 m (3 to 7 ft) deep. The size of prairie potholes vary from less than 0.5 to more than 100 ha (1 to more than 2 50 acres). In some areas it is common to see up to 40 prairie potholes km-2 (100 mi-2). Due to drainage of these wetlands mainly for agricultural purposes, only 1.2 million ha (3 million acres) remain of the original 2.8 million ha (7 million acres) in North and South Dakota. Minnesota has had over 50 percent of its prairie wet lands drained while Iowa has drained over 99 percent of its original wetlands (Tiner, 1984). Prairie wetlands are a valuable natural resource. The prairie pothole region is North America's most valuable waterfowl breeding habitat. Wetlands also aid in storing flood waters and retard flood peaks, act as groundwater recharge and discharge, and improve water quality by trapping the sediments and removing nutrients, pesticides, and other toxic substances (Heimlich and Langner, 1986). The hydrology of a prairie pothole has a large influence on every aspect of the wetland. The hydrology associated with each individual prairie pothole is complex and dynamic, making it difficult to understand the role it has on soil genesis and water quality. The quality of the surface and groundwater is largely influenced by hydrology because of the many different sources of water and the many different flow systems within a prairie pothole complex. The different flow systems also affect soil genesis by influencing the water regimes, the salt levels in the soil, and the amount and degree of leaching (percolation). Topography has a considerable affect [sic] on soil genesis in the prairie pothole region because of the rolling landscape produced by glacial activities. The topography of the landscape influences the rate of infiltration into the soil and the degree of water erosion, factors affecting soil genesis. The objectives of this study were: (1) relate the role of hydrology and topography to soil genesis and (2) relate the role of hydrology to surface water and groundwater quality around six prairie potholes. The water quality section was divided into two studies: the major ions and nitrogen.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Water quality -- South Dakota -- Deuel County
Soil formation
Prairie Pothole Region



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University