Changes between early development (1930–60) and recent (2005–15) groundwater-level altitudes and dissolved-solids and nitrate concentrations In and near Gaines, Terry, and Yoakum Counties, Texas

Scientific Investigations Map 3355
Prepared in cooperation with Llano Estacado Underground Water Conservation District, Sandy Land Underground Water Conservation District, and South Plains Underground Water Conservation District
By: , and 

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Abstract

Llano Estacado Underground Water Conservation District, Sandy Land Underground Water Conservation District, and South Plains Underground Water Conservation District manage groundwater resources in a part of west Texas near the Texas-New Mexico State line. Declining groundwater levels have raised concerns about the amount of available groundwater in the study area and the potential for water-quality changes resulting from dewatering and increased vertical groundwater movement between adjacent water-bearing units.

In 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Llano Estacado Underground Water Conservation District, Sandy Land Underground Water District, and South Plains Underground Water Conservation District, began a multiphase project to develop a regional conceptual model of the hydrogeologic framework and geochemistry of the Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, and Dockum aquifers. The Ogallala aquifer is the shallowest aquifer in the study area and is the primary source of water for agriculture and municipal supply in the area. This report describes the results of the first phase of the study, during which groundwater-level-altitude and selected water-quality data from wells in and near Gaines, Terry, and Yoakum Counties were compiled and evaluated for the Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, and Dockum aquifers.

Readily available digital groundwater data for the study area (geologic, well-construction, groundwater-level-altitude, and selected water-quality data) were compiled to assess temporal and spatial changes in groundwater resources from early development (1930–60) to recent (2005–15) periods. Pertinent data were compiled from available sources for the study area and for a 5-mile buffer area around the study area to prevent gridding errors near the boundary. Geologic and well-construction data were used to determine or verify the aquifer in which each well was completed. Depending on the available data, the aquifer assignment (aquifer in which a given well was completed) was determined on the basis of the following criteria, in order of priority: (1) the screened or open interval(s) of the well, (2) the total depth of the well, or (3) the completed aquifer reported for a given well by the data source.

Potentiometric-surface maps were created to depict changes in groundwater-level altitudes for the Ogallala and Edwards-Trinity aquifers. In addition to comparing groundwater-level altitudes and water quality from the early development and recent periods, hydrographs of groundwater-level altitudes were created, and changes in water quality for various periods between 1930 and 2015 were evaluated. Variance maps for each groundwater-level-altitude grid were used to evaluate the spatial data coverage and to identify areas with higher uncertainty because of spatially limited data availability for some of the aquifers.

For this report, existing dissolved-solids and nitrate concentration data were compiled and assessed for evidence of spatial patterns and changes over time. These data were compiled for samples collected from wells completed in the Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, or Dockum aquifer during the early development period (1930–60) or the recent period (2005–15); temporal and spatial variations were assessed from depictions of the measured concentration values. Dissolved-solids and nitrate concentrations measured in samples from three wells completed in the Ogallala aquifer (well identifiers 11524, 11824, and 11825) for which long-term monitoring was done for various periods between 1950 and 2015 were also compiled and analyzed.

Groundwater-level altitudes of the Ogallala aquifer are generally higher in the northwestern part of the study area and lower in the southeastern part of the study area, varying by as much as 800 feet. Groundwater flow paths for the early development period generally trend from northwest to southeast across the study area. Compared to those for the early development period, local features in the potentiometric surface for the recent period are more pronounced, likely as a result of additional data coverage, increased groundwater withdrawals, and local flow paths that are more variable.

For the Edwards-Trinity aquifer potentiometric-surface map of the recent period, a general northwest to southeast flow gradient was also evident, with some subtle differences compared to the early development period. The Edwards-Trinity aquifer water-level-altitude change map between the early development and recent periods indicated similar spatial trends as in the Ogallala aquifer and indicated that groundwater-level altitudes declined over a large amount of the area for which sufficient data were available for reliably mapping changes.

During the recent period, median dissolved-solids concentrations of less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) were predominantly measured in the western part of the study area, and median concentrations of more than 1,000 mg/L were predominantly measured in the eastern part of the study area. A general pattern of increasing nitrate concentrations from west to the northeast was evident in the study area. Nitrate concentrations measured in samples collected from 16 wells completed in the Ogallala aquifer for the recent period were equal to or greater than 10 mg/L, the primary drinking water standard for finished drinking water.

Suggested Citation

Thomas, J.V., Teeple, A.P., Payne, J.D., and Ikard, Scott, 2016, Changes between early development (1930–60) and recent (2005–15) groundwater-level altitudes and dissolved-solids and nitrate concentrations in and near Gaines, Terry, and Yoakum Counties, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3355, 2 sheets, pamphlet, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sim3355.

ISSN: 2329-132X (online)

ISSN: 2329-1311 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data Compilation
  • Data Processing and Interpretation
  • Groundwater-Level Altitudes in the Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, and Dockum Aquifers from 1930 to 2015
  • Changes in Dissolved-Solids and Nitrate Concentrations in the Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, and Dockum Aquifers from 1930 to 2015
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Changes between early development (1930–60) and recent (2005–15) groundwater-level altitudes and dissolved-solids and nitrate concentrations In and near Gaines, Terry, and Yoakum Counties, Texas
Series title Scientific Investigations Map
Series number 3355
DOI 10.3133/sim3355
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Texas Water Science Center
Description 2 Sheets: 32.00 x 35.00 and 32.00 x 35.00; 11 Tables; Pamphlet: vi, 13 p.
First page 1
Last page 13
Country United States
State Texas
County Gaines County, Terry County, Yoakum County
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y