Concern arose in the late 1980s over the vulnerability of the Mississippi Valley alluvial aquifer to contamination from potential surface sources related to pesticide or fertilizer use, industrial activity, landfills, or livestock operations. In 1990 a study was begun to locate areas in Arkansas where the groundwater flow system is susceptible to contamination by surface contaminants. As a part of that effort, the thickness of the clay confining unit overlying the alluvial aquifer in eastern Arkansas was mapped. The study area included all or parts of 27 counties in eastern Arkansas that are underlain by the alluvial aquifer and its overlying confining unit. A database of well attributes was compiled based on data from driller's logs and from published data and stored in computer files. A confining-unit thickness map was created from the driller's-log database using geographic information systems technology. A computer program was then used to contour the data. Where the confining unit is present, it ranges in thickness from 0 feet in many locations in the study area to 140 feet in northeastern Greene County and can vary substantially over short distances. Although general trends in the thickness of the confining unit are apparent, the thickness has great spatial variability. An apparent relation exists between thickness of the confining unit and spatial variability in thickness. In areas where the thickness of the confining unit is 40 feet or less, such as in Clay, eastern Craighead, northwestern Mississippi, and Woodruff Counties, thickness of the unit tends robe more uniform than in areas where the thickness of the unit generally exceeds 40 feet, such as in Arkansas, Lonoke, and Prairie Counties. At some sites the confining unit is very thick compared to its thickness in the immediate surrounding area. Locations of abandoned Mississippi River meander channels generally coincide with location of locally thick confining unit. Deposition of the confining unit onto the coarser alluvial aquifer deposits has reduced the relief of the land surface. Hence, the altitude of the top of the alluvial aquifer varies more than the altitude of the land surface and is indicative of a depositional setting.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Thickness of the Mississippi River Valley confining unit, eastern Arkansas
Water-Resources Investigations Report
1 map on 3 sheets ; 212 x 87 cm., sheets 107 x 122 cm., folded in envelope 32 x 24 cm. + 1 data sheet (96 x 97 cm.)