Conceptual and numerical models of groundwater flow in the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation area, South Dakota, water years 1980-2009

Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5241
Prepared in cooperation with the Oglala Sioux Tribe
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers are the largest sources of groundwater on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and are used extensively for irrigation and public and domestic water supplies. To assess the potential for decreased water levels and discharge to streams in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, conceptual and numerical models of groundwater flow in the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers in southwestern South Dakota were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The study area includes most of the Pine Ridge Reservation in Jackson and Shannon Counties and Indian trust lands in Bennett County in southwestern South Dakota.

The High Plains aquifer, which includes the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers, generally is less developed in South Dakota compared with other areas underlain by this aquifer; therefore, water levels in the High Plains aquifer in South Dakota generally fluctuated by less than 5 feet (ft) from 1980 to 1999. Despite minimal water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer in South Dakota, extensive withdrawals of groundwater for irrigation have caused water-level declines in many areas and increased concerns about the long-term sustainability of the aquifer; therefore, continued or increased withdrawals from the aquifer or prolonged drought may have the potential to affect water levels within the aquifer and discharge to important streams in the area.

The Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers generally consist of poorly consolidated claystones, siltstones, sandstones, and shale deposited in fluvial and lacustrine environments. Saturated thicknesses ranged from 10 to 314 ft for the Ogllala aquifer and from 10 to 862 ft for the Arikaree aquifer. Previous hydraulic conductivity estimates ranged from less than 1 to 180 feet per day (ft/d) for the Ogallala aquifer and from less than 1 to 13 ft/d for the Arikaree aquifer.

Recharge to the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers is from precipitation on the outcrop areas, and discharge occurs through evapotranspiration, discharge to streams, and well withdrawals. Evapotranspiration generally occurs in topographically low areas along streams, and maximum evapotranspiration occurs when the water level is at the land surface.

The generalized groundwater-flow direction is to the northeast with local flow towards streams. Precipitation for water years 1980–2009 ranged from about 11 to 39 inches per year (in/yr) and averaged about 19 in/yr. Estimated mean recharge for water years 1980–2009 was about 17.3 percent of precipitation for the Ogallala aquifer and 7.9 percent of precipitation for the Arikaree aquifer. The estimated mean maximum evapotranspiration for water years 1980–2009 was about 35 in/yr. Estimated mean base flow for gaged streams was about 0.06 cubic foot per second (ft3/s) per square mile of drainage area. Estimated mean total water use for water years 1980–2009 was 5.4 ft3/s from the Ogallala aquifer and 7.1 ft3/s from the Arikaree aquifer.

A two-layer numerical groundwater-flow model was constructed using MODFLOW–NWT with a uniformly spaced grid consisting of 166 rows and 288 columns with cells 1,640 ft on a side. The numerical model of the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers was used to simulate steady-state and transient conditions for water years 1980–2009. Model calibration was accomplished using the Parameter ESTimation (PEST) program that adjusted individual model input parameters and assessed the difference between estimated and model-simulated values of hydraulic head and base flow. Aquifer boundaries were no-flow on the northern and western sides and constant-head on the southern and eastern sides. The mean arithmetic difference was 1.4 ft between the 731 simulated and observed hydraulic heads in the Ogallala aquifer and 9.8 ft between the 2,754 simulated and observed hydraulic heads in the Arikaree aquifer. Simulated mean discharge from the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers to selected stream reaches was 92.1 ft3/s compared to estimated discharge of 88.7 ft3/s.

Calibrated recharge for the transient simulation averaged 3.3 in/yr for the Ogallala aquifer and 1.1 in/yr for the Arikaree aquifer. The mean maximum potential evapotranspiration rate was 35.4 in/yr. Streambed conductance for perennial stream reaches averaged 530 feet squared per day. Horizontal hydraulic conductivity averaged 27 ft/d for the Ogallala aquifer and 1.0 ft/d for the Arikaree aquifer. The vertical hydraulic conductivity averaged 1.4 ft/d for the Ogallala aquifer and 0.004 ft/d for the Arikaree aquifer. Specific yield for the Ogallala aquifer was 0.15 (dimensionless) and averaged 0.02 for the Arikaree aquifer. Specific storage for the Arikaree aquifer was 1.7x10-6 per foot. Simulated steady-state model inflow and outflow was 459 ft3/s. The percentages of inflows were 17 percent from constant-head boundaries, 9 percent from streams, and 74 percent from recharge. Percentages of outflow were 8 percent to constant-head boundaries, 1 percent to wells, 31 percent to streams, and 59 percent to evapotranspiration. Simulated net inflow from the Ogallala aquifer to the Arikaree aquifer ranged from about 22 ft3/s in dry years to about 37 ft3/s in wet years.

Two hypothetical future stress scenarios were simulated using input from the 30-year calibrated simulation of water years 1980–2009. The first hypothetical scenario represented an increase in groundwater withdrawals from 50 hypothetical production wells completed in the Arikaree aquifer. At the end of the 30-year hypothetical increased pumping simulation, water levels declined as much as 66 ft in the Arikaree aquifer, decreased discharge to streams accounted for about 26 percent (2.6 ft3/s) of increased withdrawals, and decreased evapotranspiration accounted for about 53 (5.3 ft3/s) percent of increased withdrawals.

The second hypothetical scenario represented a 30-year period of decreased recharge (drought) by decreasing recharge 0.2 inch (24 ft3/s) for each water year. At the end of the hypothetical drought simulation, water levels declined as much as 10.9 ft in the Arikaree aquifer, decreased discharge to streams accounted for about 23 percent (5.5 ft3/s) of decreased recharge, and decreased evapotranspiration accounted for about 72 percent (17.3 ft3/s) of decreased recharge.

The numerical model is a tool that could be used to better understand the flow system of the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers, to approximate hydraulic heads in the aquifer, and to estimate discharge to rivers, springs, and seeps in the Pine Ridge Reservation area in Bennett, Jackson, and Shannon Counties. The model also is useful to help assess the response of the aquifer to additional stress, including potential increased well withdrawals and potential drought conditions.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Conceptual and numerical models of groundwater flow in the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation area, South Dakota, water years 1980-2009
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2014-5241
DOI 10.3133/sir20145241
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Dakota Water Science Center, South Dakota Water Science Center
Description x, 68 p.
Time Range Start 1979-10-01
Time Range End 2009-09-30
Country United States
State South Dakota
Other Geospatial Arikaree Aquifer, Ogallala Aquifer, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Projection Universal Transverse Mercator projection, Zone 14
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N