Summary appraisals of the Nation's ground-water resources; Souris-Red-Rainy region

Open-File Report 77-565




A broad-perspective analysis of the ground-water resources and present and possible future water development and management in the Souris-Red-Rainy Region is presented. The region includes the basins of the Souris River within Montana and North Dakota; the Red River of the North in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota; and the Rainy River within Minnesota. The region includes 59,645 square miles, mostly in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The terrain is relatively flat, but ranges in altitude from 2,541 to 750 feet. Annual average precipitation ranges from 14 inches in the west to 28 inches in the east and about 75 percent of it is rain. The mean annual snow fall ranges from 32 inches in the west to 64 inches in the east. Temperatures range from -55° to 118°F (-48.3° to 47.8°C). Irrigation is needed at least part of the time to assure crop production, particularly in the western part of the region.

Sand and gravel deposits in the drift form the most important fresh-water aquifers. Other aquifers are found in at least parts of the region in the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary rocks. The potentiometric surface in the bedrock generally decreases in altitude toward the Red River of the North, indicating that the general direction of ground-water movement is toward the river. Ground-water with less than 3,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids is available throughout the region.

Ground water with less than 1,000 milligrams per liter occurs in most of the region east of the Red River of the North and in most of the shallow aquifers west of the river. The total volume of water available from storage having less than 3,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids is estimated to be 5 x 108 acre-feet. In addition to the fresh and slightly saline water, the region has abundant highly mineralized water that can be considered as a resource. Yields of wells in individual bedrock aquifers are generally less than 100 gallons per minute but locally yields may be as much as 500 gallons per minute and more. Yields in drift aquifers are frequently less than 100 gallons per minute but range from 5 to 1,000 gallons per minute. In a few places outwash yields more than 1,000 gallons per minute.

Ground water is the sole or a primary source of water supply in much of the region, including supplies for irrigation, domestic and livestock, municipal, and industrial needs. Reportedly, the potential irrigation development is 1,550,000 acres, as compared with 50,200 acres in 1975. Both ground- and surface-water supplies would be required to meet these demands. Rural domestic and livestock water supplies are derived almost entirely from ground-water sources. Smaller communities and towns generally rely on ground water, and the cities and industries use ground water, surface water, or both. The municipalities using surface water generally depend upon reservoir storage. Water quality rather than quantity is the greater water-supply problem for many communities in the region.

Increased demands on both ground-water and surface-water supplies likely will be made in the future. Storage of surface water in the ground-water reservoirs during times of surplus for withdrawal during times of scarcity would aid in meeting these demands. The surplus (flood) water is of better chemical quality than underlying ground water in parts of the western half of the region. Fresh water could be stored in saline- or fresh-water aquifers, and pumped out later, as needed. Thus, the ground-water reservoirs have a definite present and potential role in water management.

To understand the hydrologic system for management purposes there is a need to determine more adequately the geologic and hydrologic characteristics of existing aquifers and the location of new aquifers. Also, as pumping and other stresses on any part of the hydrologic system affect other parts of the system, monitoring programs ideally should be started and maintained to detect changes and determine effects of the stresses.

Many alternatives are available for managing water in the region. Some of these are operational and others are undergoing research. Adequate hydrologic information is needed to aid in solving problems of water supply, use and pollution.

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Summary appraisals of the Nation's ground-water resources; Souris-Red-Rainy region
Series title:
Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
125 p.
United States
Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota
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