The Oklahoma Panhandle and adjacent areas in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico have prospered because of the development of supplies of fresh water and of oil and gas. The Ogallala and, in places, Cretaceous rocks produce fresh water for irrigation, public supply, and domestic and stock use through approximately 9,000 irrigation and public supply wells and a large but undetermined number of other wells. Disposal of oil-field brine and other wastes into the Glorieta Sandstone is of concern to many local residents because of the possibility of pollution of the overlying fresh-water aquifers, particularly the Ogallala Formation. Permits for 147 disposal wells into the Glorieta have been issued in this area.
This report summarizes the data on geology, hydrology, and water development currently available to the U.S. Geological Survey. Geologic information indicates that, in the report area, the Glorieta Sandstone lies at depths ranging from about 500 to 1,600 feet below the base of the Ogallala Fox, nation. The rocks between those two formations are of relatively impermeable types, but solution and removal of salt has resulted in collapse of the rocks in some places. Collapse and fracturing of the rocks could result in increased vertical permeability. This might result in movement of brine under hydrostatic head from the Glorieta Sandstone into overlying fresh-water aquifers, in places where an upward hydraulic gradient exists or is created by an increase in pressure within the Glorieta. Abandoned or inadequately sealed boreholes also are possible conduits for such fluids.
The mixing of water in the fresh-water aquifers with brines injected into the Glorieta is not known to have occurred anywhere in the report area, but the information available is not adequate to show positively whether or not this may have occurred locally. Much additional information on the stratigraphy and hydrology--particularly, data on the potentiometric surface of water in the Glorieta--needs to be collected and analyzed before conclusions can be drawn regarding the possibility of vertical movement of oil-field brines from the Glorieta to fresh-water aquifers above.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeologic information on the Glorieta Sandstone and the Ogallala Formation in the Oklahoma Panhandle and adjoining areas as related to underground waste disposal