Summary appraisals of the Nation's ground-water resources; Lower Mississippi region

Professional Paper 813-N

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The Lower Mississippi Region comprises an area of 102,400 square miles (265,200 square kilometers). Almost all this area is in the physiographic province known as the Gulf Coastal Plain. Three small areas on the northwest boundary of the region are in the Interior Highlands.

The Lower Mississippi Region has an abundance of ground water. The geologic structure in that part of the region within the Coastal Plain is an elongated trough which has been filled with permeable materials, resulting in vast subsurface reservoirs. Except in local areas where continued large withdrawals have caused significant water-level declines, these reservoirs are full.

Recharge to the region's aquifers is primarily from rainfall. Annual rainfall in most of the region is well distributed throughout the year and is sufficient to satisfy evapotranspiration requirements and still provide recharge to the aquifers.

An estimated 844 billion cubic feet (24 billion cubic meters) of fresh ground water is available for withdrawal annually in the region. Only about one-third of this quantity is being utilized. Therefore, on this basis alone, the region still has much potential for ground-water development.

The Coastal Plain aquifers within the Lower Mississippi Region contain large reserves of saltwater in the downdip limits of the aquifers. The quantity of saltwater in the region is several times that of freshwater. As desalinization techniques are developed and as more uses are found for saltwater, this reserve could become an important source of water for the region.

At present (1976), the most productive and potentially productive aquifers or aquifer systems in the region are the Mississippi River valley alluvial aquifer of Quaternary age and the Sparta Sand and the Memphis aquifer (Memphis Sand in Tennessee) of Tertiary age. The Sparta Sand and the Memphis aquifer are heavily utilized and have shown significant water-level declines. However, selected well hydrographs indicate that water levels may be stabilizing under present pumping conditions. The Mississippi River valley alluvial aquifer is the most extensive high-yielding aquifer in the region; yields of several thousand gallons per minute may be obtained at depths of less than 200 feet (61 meters).

To obtain maximum benefit from the vast quantities of ground water in the region, adequate attention must be given to the effects of proposed development upon the ground-water regime. Knowledge of the geologic structure and hydraulic properties of the aquifer systems is essential to an evaluation of the effects of such development. Some studies have been made in sufficient detail to provide this knowledge, but additional studies are needed.

Activities that could cause significant changes in the groundwater regime should be undertaken only after all available information has been considered. Failure to seek out and use such information may result in inefficient development of the groundwater resource and, in some instances, degradation of the quality of the resource.

Some changes always result from ground-water development. The possible changes can be grouped into three categories: hydraulic, water quality, and those affecting the physical framework of the aquifers. Generally, they are small in magnitude and areal extent. Because these changes occur below the ground surface, they are unknown to the ground-water user unless they noticeably affect the quantity or quality of water produced or cause obvious physical effects, such as land subsidence.

Great advances have been made in hydrologic technology in recent years. Predictive models have been developed that make it possible for the hydroiogist to simulate aquifer responses to proposed development or other stresses. These models would be invaluable tools in progressive water-resources planning and management.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Summary appraisals of the Nation's ground-water resources; Lower Mississippi region
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
v., 41 p.
United States
Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee
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