Hydrogeology and Model-Simulated Groundwater Availability in the Salt Fork Red River Aquifer, Southwestern Oklahoma, 1980–2015

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5003
Prepared in cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board
By: , and 

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Abstract

The 1973 Oklahoma Water Law (82 OK Stat § 82-1020.5) requires that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) conduct hydrologic investigations of the State’s groundwater basins to support a determination of the maximum annual yield for each groundwater basin (hereinafter referred to as an “aquifer”). The maximum annual yield allocated per acre of land is known as the equal-proportionate-share (EPS) pumping rate. At present (2021), the OWRB has not yet established a maximum annual yield and EPS pumping rate for the Salt Fork Red River aquifer. To provide updated information to the OWRB that could support evaluation and determination of an appropriate maximum annual yield, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the OWRB, conducted a hydrologic investigation and evaluated the effects of potential groundwater withdrawals on groundwater availability in the Salt Fork Red River aquifer.

The Salt Fork Red River aquifer in Greer, Harmon, and Jackson Counties of southwestern Oklahoma is composed of about 274.5 square miles of alluvium and terrace deposits associated with the Salt Fork Red River. The mean annual recharge rate to the Salt Fork Red River aquifer for the period 1980–2015 was estimated to be about 2.94 inches per year, or 10.0 percent of the mean annual precipitation for the same period (29.4 inches per year). This 1980–2015 mean annual recharge rate is equivalent to a mean annual recharge rate of about 38,000 acre-feet per year (acre-ft/yr) for the Salt Fork Red River aquifer excluding about 19,764 acres comprising the Mulberry Creek and Horse Creek terraces. The mean annual recharge rates upgradient and downgradient from USGS streamgage 07300500 Salt Fork Red River at Mangum, Okla. (hereinafter referred to as the “Mangum gage”), apportioned by aquifer area (41.5 and 58.5 percent, respectively), were about 16,000 and 22,000 acre-ft/yr, respectively. Mean annual groundwater use for the study period (1980–2015) was 3,532.7 acre-ft/yr; about 77 percent of that groundwater use was for irrigation, and about 23 percent was for public supply. Most groundwater use for irrigation was associated with wells in the Martha terrace.

A hydrogeologic framework was developed for the Salt 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 the numerical groundwater-flow model of the Salt Fork Red River aquifer described in this report. A conceptual model for the Salt Fork Red River aquifer that reasonably represents the groundwater-flow system was developed to constrain the construction and calibration of the numerical model. The conceptual-model water budget estimated mean annual inflows to, and outflows from, the Salt Fork Red River aquifer for the period 1980–2015 and included a subaccounting of mean annual inflows and outflows for the portions of the aquifer that were upgradient and downgradient from the Mangum gage.

The numerical groundwater-flow model of the Salt Fork Red River aquifer was constructed by using MODFLOW-2005 with the Newton formulation solver. The model of the Salt Fork Red River aquifer was spatially discretized into 1,050 rows, 1,125 columns, about 170,000 active cells measuring 200 by 200 feet (ft), and a single convertible layer. The model was temporally discretized into 432 monthly transient stress periods (each with two time steps to improve model stability). An initial steady-state stress period represented mean annual inflows to, and outflows from, the aquifer and produced a solution that was used as the initial condition for subsequent transient stress periods as well as some groundwater-availability scenarios. The model was calibrated to water-table-altitude observations at selected wells and base-flow observations at selected streamgages.

The simulated saturated thickness of the Salt Fork Red River aquifer was determined by subtracting the altitude of the aquifer base from the simulated water-table altitude at the end of the numerical-model period (2015). The simulated saturated thickness was more than 75 ft in a paleochannel in the Dodson terrace near the Texas border. The mean aquifer thickness (sum of saturated and unsaturated) was 49.62 ft, and the mean saturated thickness was 28.55 ft. A simulated mean transmissivity of 1,024 feet squared per day was computed from the calibrated hydraulic conductivity and saturated thickness of each cell. The simulated available water in storage at the end of the numerical-model period (2015) was 526,117 acre-feet (acre-ft); about 42 percent of that total was available upgradient from the Mangum gage, and about 58 percent of that total was available downgradient from the Mangum gage (including the Mangum terrace).

Three types of groundwater-availability scenarios were run using the calibrated numerical model. These scenarios were used to (1) estimate the EPS pumping rate that ensures 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 20-, 40-, and 50-year EPS pumping rates under normal recharge conditions were about 0.46, 0.44, and 0.44 acre-ft per acre per year, respectively. Given the 155,929-acre modeled aquifer area, these rates correspond to annual yields of about 71,700, 68,600, and 68,600 acre-ft/yr, respectively. For the 20-year EPS scenario, decreasing and increasing recharge by 10 percent resulted in a 6-percent change in the EPS pumping rate in both cases; for the 40- and 50-year EPS scenarios, decreasing and increasing recharge by 10 percent resulted in a 7-percent change in the EPS pumping rate in both cases.

Projected 50-year pumping scenarios were used to simulate the effects of selected well withdrawal rates on groundwater storage of the Salt Fork Red River aquifer and base flows in the Salt Fork Red River. The effects of well withdrawals were evaluated by quantifying differences in groundwater storage and base flow in four 50-year scenarios, which applied (1) no groundwater pumping, (2) mean pumping rates for the study period (1980–2015), (3) 2015 pumping rates, and (4) increasing demand pumping rates at simulated wells. The increasing demand pumping rates assumed a cumulative 20.4-percent increase in pumping over 50 years based on 2010–60 demand projections for southwestern Oklahoma. Groundwater storage after 50 years with no pumping was 535,000 acre-ft, or 8,900 acre-ft (1.7 percent) greater than the initial groundwater storage; this groundwater storage increase is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude increase of 0.48 ft. Groundwater storage after 50 years of pumping at the mean rate for the study period (1980–2015) was 519,900 acre-ft, or 6,200 acre-ft (1.2 percent) less than the initial groundwater storage; this groundwater storage decrease is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude decline of 0.34 ft. Groundwater storage at the end of the 50-year period with 2015 pumping rates was 513,100 acre-ft, or 13,000 acre-ft (2.5 percent) less than the initial storage; this groundwater storage decrease is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude decline of 0.71 ft. Groundwater storage at the end of the 50-year period with increasing demand pumping rates was 509,700 acre-ft, or 16,500 acre-ft (3.1 percent) less than the initial storage; this groundwater storage decrease is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude decline of 0.89 ft.

A hypothetical 10-year drought scenario was used to simulate the effects of a prolonged period of reduced recharge on groundwater storage. The period January 1983–December 1992 was chosen as the simulated drought period. Drought effects were quantified by comparing the results of the drought scenario to those of the calibrated numerical model (no drought) at the end of the simulated drought period (1992). To simulate the hypothetical drought, recharge in the calibrated numerical model was reduced by 50 percent during the simulated drought period (1983–92). Upstream inflows from the Salt Fork Red River, Turkey Creek, and Bitter Creek were reduced by 75 percent. Groundwater storage at the end of the drought period (1992) was 479,200 acre-ft, or 53,200 acre-ft (10.0 percent) less than the groundwater storage of the calibrated numerical model at the end of the drought period. This decrease in groundwater storage is equivalent to a mean water-table-altitude decline of 2.9 ft. At the end of the 10-year hypothetical drought period, simulated base flows at the Mangum gage and USGS streamgage 07301110 Salt Fork Red River near Elmer, Okla., had decreased by about 80 and 70 percent, respectively.

Suggested Citation

Smith, S.J., Ellis, J.H., Paizis, N.C., Becker, C.J., Wagner, D.L., Correll, J.S., and Hernandez, R.J., 2021, Hydrogeology and model-simulated groundwater availability in the Salt Fork Red River aquifer, southwestern Oklahoma, 1980–2015: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5003, 85 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20215003.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Hydrogeology of the Salt Fork Red River Aquifer
  • Hydrogeologic Framework
  • Conceptual Groundwater-Flow Model
  • Numerical Groundwater-Flow Model
  • Groundwater-Availability Scenarios
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrogeology and model-simulated groundwater availability in the Salt Fork Red River aquifer, southwestern Oklahoma, 1980–2015
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5003
DOI 10.3133/sir20215003
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Oklahoma-Texas Water Science Center
Description Report: xi, 85 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Oklahoma
Other Geospatial Salt Fork Red River Aquifer
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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