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Hydrogeology and simulated groundwater flow and availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer, southwest Oklahoma,
1980–2013

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5098

Prepared in cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board
By:
ORCID iD , ORCID iD , , and ORCID iD
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175098

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Abstract

On September 8, 1981, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board established regulatory limits on the maximum annual yield of groundwater (343,042 acre-feet per year) and equal-proportionate-share (EPS) pumping rate (1.0 acre-foot per acre per year) for the North Fork Red River aquifer. The maximum annual yield and EPS were based on a hydrologic investigation that used a numerical groundwater-flow model to evaluate the effects of potential groundwater withdrawals on groundwater availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is statutorily required (every 20 years) to update the hydrologic investigation on which the maximum annual yield and EPS were based. Because 20 years have elapsed since the final order was issued, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, conducted an updated hydrologic investigation and evaluated the effects of potential groundwater withdrawals on groundwater flow and availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer in Oklahoma. This report describes a hydrologic investigation of the North Fork Red River aquifer that includes an updated summary of the aquifer hydrogeology. As part of this investigation, groundwater flow and availability were simulated by using a numerical groundwater-flow model.

The North Fork Red River aquifer in Beckham, Greer, Jackson, Kiowa, and Roger Mills Counties in Oklahoma is composed of about 777 square miles (497,582 acres) of alluvium and terrace deposits along the North Fork Red River and tributaries, including Sweetwater Creek, Elk Creek, Otter Creek, and Elm Fork Red River. The North Fork Red River is the primary source of surface-water inflow to Lake Altus, which overlies the North Fork Red River aquifer. Lake Altus is a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reservoir with the primary purpose of supplying irrigation water to the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District.

A hydrogeologic framework was developed for the North Fork Red River aquifer and included a definition of the aquifer extent and potentiometric surface, as well as a description of the textural and hydraulic properties of aquifer materials. The hydrogeologic framework was used in the construction of a numerical groundwater-flow model of the North Fork Red River aquifer described in this report. A conceptual model of aquifer inflows and outflows was developed for the North Fork Red River aquifer to constrain the construction and calibration of a numerical groundwater-flow model that reasonably represented the groundwater-flow system. The conceptual-model water budget estimated mean annual inflows to and outflows from the North Fork Red River aquifer for the period 1980–2013 and included a sub-accounting of mean annual inflows and outflows for the portions of the aquifer that were upgradient and downgradient from Lake Altus. The numerical groundwater-flow model simulated the period 1980–2013 and was calibrated to water-table-altitude observations at selected wells, monthly base flow at selected streamgages, net streambed seepage as estimated for the conceptual model, and Lake Altus stage.

Groundwater-availability scenarios were performed by using the calibrated numerical groundwater-flow model to (1) estimate the EPS pumping rate that guarantees a minimum 20-, 40-, and 50-year life of the aquifer, (2) quantify the potential effects of projected well withdrawals on groundwater storage over a 50-year period, and (3) simulate the potential effects of a hypothetical (10-year) drought on base flow and groundwater storage. The results of the groundwater-availability scenarios could be used by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to reevaluate the maximum annual yield of groundwater from the North Fork Red River aquifer.

EPS scenarios for the North Fork Red River aquifer were run for periods of 20, 40, and 50 years. The 20-, 40-, and 50-year EPS pumping rates under normal recharge conditions were 0.59, 0.52, and 0.52 acre-foot per acre per year, respectively. Given the 497,582-acre aquifer area, these rates correspond to annual yields of about 294,000, 259,000, and 259,000 acre-feet per year, respectively. Groundwater storage at the end of the 20-year EPS scenario was about 951,000 acre-feet, or about 1,317,000 acre-feet (58 percent) less than the starting EPS scenario storage. This decrease in storage was equivalent to a mean water-level decline of about 22 feet. Most areas of the active alluvium near the North Fork Red River, Elk Creek, and Elm Fork Red River remained partially saturated through the end of the EPS scenario because of streambed seepage. Lake Altus storage was reduced to zero after 6–7 years of EPS pumping in each scenario.

Projected 50-year pumping scenarios were used to simulate the effects of selected well withdrawal rates on groundwater storage of the North Fork Red River aquifer and base flows in the North Fork Red River upstream from Lake Altus. The effects of well withdrawals were evaluated by comparing changes in groundwater storage and base flow between four 50-year scenarios using (1) no groundwater pumping, (2) mean pumping rates for the study period (1980–2013), (3) 2013 pumping rates, and (4) increasing demand pumping rates. The increasing demand pumping rates assumed a 20.4-percent increase in pumping over 50 years based on 2010–60 demand projections for southwest Oklahoma.

Groundwater storage after 50 years with no pumping was about 2,606,000 acre-feet, or 137,000 acre-feet (5.5 percent) greater than the initial groundwater storage; this groundwater storage increase is equivalent to a mean water-level increase of 2.3 feet. Groundwater storage after 50 years with the mean pumping rate for the study period (1980–2013) was about 2,476,000 acre-feet, or about 7,000 acre-feet (0.3 percent) greater than the initial groundwater storage; this groundwater storage increase is equivalent to a mean water-level increase of 0.1 foot. Groundwater storage at the end of the 50-year period with 2013 pumping rates was about 2,398,000 acre-feet, or about 70,000 acre-feet (2.8 percent) less than the initial storage; this groundwater storage decrease is equivalent to a mean water-level decline of 1.2 feet. Groundwater storage at the end of the 50-year period with increasing demand pumping rates was about 2,361,000 acre-feet, or about 107,000 acre-feet (4.3 percent) less than the initial storage; this groundwater storage decrease is equivalent to a mean water-level decline of 1.8 feet. Mean annual base flow simulated at the Carter streamgage (07301500) on North Fork Red River increased by about 4,000 acre-feet (10 percent) after 50 years with no pumping and decreased by about 5,400 acre-feet (13 percent) after 50 years with increasing demand pumping rates. Mean annual base flow simulated at the North Fork Red River inflow to Lake Altus increased by about 7,400 acre-feet (15 percent) after 50 years with no pumping and decreased by about 5,800 acre-feet (12 percent) after 50 years with increasing demand pumping rates.

A hypothetical 10-year drought scenario was used to simulate the effects of a prolonged period of reduced recharge on groundwater storage and Lake Altus stage and storage. Drought effects were quantified by comparing the results of the drought scenario to those of the calibrated numerical model (no drought). To simulate the hypothetical drought, recharge in the calibrated numerical model was reduced by 50 percent during the simulated drought period (1984–1993). Groundwater storage at the end of the drought period was about 2,271,000 acre-feet, or about 426,000 acre-feet (15.8 percent) less than the groundwater storage of the calibrated numerical model. This decrease in groundwater storage is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude decline of 7.1 feet. At the end of the 10-year hypothetical drought period, base flows at the Sweetwater (07301420), Carter (07301500), Headrick (07305000), and Snyder (07307010) streamgages had decreased by about 37, 61, 44, and 45 percent, respectively. The minimum Lake Altus storage simulated during the drought period was 403 acre-feet, which was a decline of 92 percent from the nondrought storage. Reduced base flows in the North Fork Red River were the primary cause of Lake Altus storage declines.

Suggested Citation

Smith, S.J., Ellis, J.H., Wagner, D.L., and Peterson, S.M., 2017, Hydrogeology and simulated groundwater flow and availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer, southwest Oklahoma, 1980–2013: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5098, 107 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175098.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

ISSN: 2328-031X (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Hydrogeology of the North Fork Red River Aquifer
  • Hydrogeologic Framework
  • Conceptual Groundwater-Flow Model
  • Numerical Groundwater-Flow Model
  • Groundwater Availability Scenarios
  • Model Limitations
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrogeology and simulated groundwater flow and availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer, southwest Oklahoma, 1980–2013
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2017-5098
DOI:
10.3133/sir20175098
Year Published:
2017
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Oklahoma Water Science Center
Description:
Report: xii, 107 p.; Data Release
Country:
United States
State:
Oklahoma
Other Geospatial:
North Fork Red River Aquifer
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
Y