Water-quality data from approximately 2,500 sites were used to investigate the distribution of chloride concentrations in the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer in southeastern Arkansas. The large volume and areal distribution of the data used for the investigation proved useful in delineating areas of elevated (greater than 100 milligrams per liter) chloride concentrations, assessing potential sources of saline water, and evaluating trends in chloride distribution and concentration over time. Irrigation water containing elevated chloride concentrations is associated with negative effects to rice and soybeans, two of the major crops in Arkansas, and a groundwater chloride concentration of 100 milligrams per liter is recommended as the upper limit for use on rice. As such, accurately delineating areas with high salinity ground water, defining potential sources of chloride, and documenting trends over time is important in assisting the agricultural community in water management.
The distribution and range of chloride concentrations in the study area revealed distinct areas of elevated chloride concentrations. Area I includes an elongated, generally northwest-southeast trending band of moderately elevated chloride concentrations in the northern part of the study area. This band of elevated chloride concentrations is approximately 40 miles in length and varies from approximately 2 to 9 miles in width, with a maximum chloride concentration of 360 milligrams per liter. Area II is a narrow, north-south trending band of elevated chloride concentrations in the southern part of the study area, with a maximum chloride concentration of 1,639 milligrams per liter. A zone of chloride concentrations exceeding 200 milligrams per liter is approximately 25 miles in length and 5 to 6 miles in width.
In Area I, low chloride concentrations in samples from wells completed in the alluvial aquifer next to the Arkansas River and in samples from the upper Claiborne aquifer, which underlies the alluvial aquifer, indicate that leakage from the river and upward flow of saline water in underlying aquifers are not likely sources for the saline water in the alluvial aquifer in Area I. A good comparison was noted for chloride concentrations in Area I and surface geomorphology. In the majority of cases, elevated chloride concentrations occurred in backswamp deposits, with low concentrations (less than 50 milligrams per liter) in areas of active or abandoned channel deposits. The fine-grained, clay-rich deposits associated with backswamp areas likely restrict recharge, induce increased ratios between evapotranspiration and recharge, and experience minimal flushing of salts concentrated during evapotranspiration.
In Area II, chloride isoconcentration maps of the underlying upper Claiborne aquifer, in addition to samples from wells completed in the middle and lower Claiborne aquifers, showed a similar chloride distribution to that of the alluvial aquifer with decreasing chloride concentrations to the east of the zone of elevated chloride concentrations, which suggests a deeper source of saline water that affects Tertiary and Quaternary aquifer systems. Mixing curves developed from bromide/chloride ratios in water samples from the alluvial aquifer, Tertiary aquifers, and samples of brine water from the Jurrasic Smackover Formation additionally discounted upward flow of saline water from underlying Tertiary formations as a potential mechanism for salinity in the alluvial aquifer in Area II. A review of information on oil exploration wells in Chicot County revealed that most of these wells were drilled from 1960 to 1980, after the elevated chloride concentrations were detected in the early 1950s. The elongated nature of the zone of elevated chloride concentrations in Area II suggests a line source or linear conduit connection with the source. Maps of a fractured limestone in the Smackover Formation in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana for purpose
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USGS Numbered Series
Occurrence, Distribution, Sources, and Trends of Elevated Chloride Concentrations in the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer in Southeastern Arkansas