One of the first requisites for the intelligent planning of utilization and control of water and for the administration of laws relating to its use is data on the quantity, quality, and mode of occurrence of the available supplies. The collection, evaluation and interpretation, and publication of such data are among the primary functions of the U.S. Geological Survey. Since 1895 the Congress has made appropriations to the Survey for investigation of the water resources of the Nation. In 1929 the Congress adopted the policy of dollar-for-dollar cooperation with the States and local governmental agencies in water-resources investigations of the U.S. Geological Survey. In 1937 a program of ground-water investigations was started in cooperation with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, and in 1949 this program was expanded to include cooperation with the Oklahoma Planning and Resources Board. In 1957 the State Legislature created the Oklahoma Water Resources Board as the principal State water agency and it became the principal local cooperator.
The Ground Water Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey collects, analyzes, and evaluates basic information on ground-water resources and prepares interpretive reports based on those data. Cooperative ground-water work was first concentrated in the Panhandle counties. During World War II most work was related to problems of water supply for defense requirements. Since 1945 detailed investigations of ground-water availability have been made in 11 areas, chiefly in the western and central parts of the State. In addition, water levels in more than 300 wells are measured periodically, principally in the western half of the State. In Oklahoma current studies are directed toward determining the source, occurrence, and availability of ground water and toward estimating the quantity of water and rate of replenishment to specific areas and water-bearing formations.
Ground water plays an important role in the economy of the State. It is estimated that about one-third of the water used in the State in 1956, or 400,000 acre-feet, came from ground-water sources. In 1957, 71 percent of the irrigation water used in the State came from underground sources, and ground water was used for irrigation in 57 of the State's 77 counties. More than 300 of the towns and cities of the State obtain all their municipal water supplies from ground water.
The major ground-water reservoirs, or aquifers, of Oklahoma may be classed in four general groups: (1) semiconsolidated sand and gravel underlying the High Plains, (2) unconsolidated alluvial deposits of sand and gravel along streams and adjacent to valleys, (3) sandstone aquifers, and (4) limestone aquifers, including, for the purpose of this generalized breakdown, dolomite and gypsum. The locations of these major aquifers are shown on figure 1. Areas on that map do not correspond exactly to outcrops, but are the areas where the formations contain significant quantities of potable water. Near their edges rock formations may be cut through by streams or they may be too thin to contain much water. On the other hand, some formations contain fresh ground water for many miles downdip from their outcrop areas, where wells must first penetrate overlying rocks to reach them.
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