Fort Cobb Reservoir in northwest Caddo County Oklahoma is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation for water supply, recreation, flood control, and wildlife. Excessive amounts of nitrogen in the watershed have the potential to cause long-term eutrophication of the reservoir and increase already elevated concentrations of nitrogen in the Rush Springs aquifer. The U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation studied ground water in the area surrounding a swine feeding operation located less than 2 miles upgradient from Fort Cobb Reservoir in Caddo County, Oklahoma. Objectives of the study were to (1) determine if the operation was contributing nitrogen to the ground water and (2) measure changes in ground-water levels and determine the local ground-water flow direction in the area surrounding the swine feeding operation.
Nitrate concentrations (28.1 and 31.5 milligrams per liter) were largest in two ground-water samples from a well upgradient of the wastewater lagoon. Nitrate concentrations ranged from 4.30 to 8.20 milligrams per liter in samples from downgradient wells. Traces of ammonia and nitrite were detected in a downgradient well, but not in upgradient wells. d15N values indicate atmospheric nitrogen, synthetic fertilizer, or plants were the predominate sources of nitrate in ground water from the downgradient wells. The d15N values in these samples are depleted in nitrogen-15, indicating that animal waste was not a significant contributor of nitrate.
Manganese concentrations (1,150 and 965 micrograms per liter) in samples from a downgradient well were substantially larger than concentrations in samples from other wells, exceeding the secondary drinking-water standard of 50 micrograms per liter. Larger concentrations of bicarbonate, magnesium, fluoride, and iron and a higher pH were also measured in water from a downgradient well.
Ground-water levels in an observation well were higher from April to mid-July and lower during the late summer and in the fall due to a seasonal decrease in precipitation, increase in water withdrawals, and increase in evapotranspiration. Ground water near the wastewater spray field moved south-southeast toward Willow Creek along a gradient of about 50 feet per mile.
Analysis of ground-water samples suggest that commercial fertilizer is contributing nitrate upgradient of the swine feeding operation and that wastewater from the lagoon is contributing reduced forms of nitrogen, ammonia and nitrite. Additional downgradient wells would be needed to (1) determine if the swine feeding operation is adding excessive amounts of nitrogen to ground water, (2) determine the vertical dimension of wastewater flow, and (3) the extent of wastewater downgradient of the lagoon.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water quality, levels, and flow direction near Fort Cobb Reservoir, Caddo County, Oklahoma, 1998-2000