Ground-water and stream-water interaction in the Owl Creek basin, Wyoming

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4253




Understanding of the interaction of ground-water and surface-water resources is vital to water management when water availability is limited.Inflow of ground water is the primary source ofwater during stream base flow. The water chemistry of streams may substantially be affected by that inflow of ground water. This report is part of a study to examine ground-water and surface-water interaction in the Owl Creek Basin, Wyoming, completed by the U.S. Geological Survey incooperation with the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Shoshone Tribe. During a low flow period between November\x1113 - 17, 1991, streamflowmeasurements and water-quality samples were collected at 16 selected sites along major streams and tributaries in the Owl Creek Basin,Wyoming. The data were used to identify stream reaches receiving ground-water inflow and to examine causes of changes in stream chemistry.Streamflow measurements, radon-222 activity load, and dissolved solids load were used to identified stream reaches receiving ground-water inflow.Streamflow measurements identified three stream reaches receiving ground-water inflow. Analysis of radon-222 activity load identified five stream reaches receiving ground-water inflow. Dissolvedsolids load identified six stream reaches receiving ground-water inflow. When these three methods were combined, stream reaches in two areas, theEmbar Area and the Thermopolis Anticline Area, were identified as receiving ground-water inflow.The Embar Area and the Thermopolis Anticline Area were then evaluated to determine the source of increased chemical load in stream water. Three potential sources were analyzed: tributary inflow, surficial geology, and anticlines. Two sources,tributary inflow and surficial geology, were related to changes in isotopic ratios and chemical load in the Embar Area. In two reaches in the Embar Area, isotopic ratios of 18O/16O, D/H, and 34S/32S indicated that tributary inflow affected stream-water chemistry. Increased chemical load of dissolved solids and dissolved sulfate in North Fork andSouth Fork Owl Creek appear to be related to the percentage of unconsolidated Quaternary deposits and of Cretaceous-Jurassic deposits in the drainage area. In the Thermopolis Anticline Area, changes in water chemistry in Owl Creek were not related to tributary inflow, surficial geology, or anticlines.The three tributaries that flow into Owl Creek in the Thermopolis Anticline Area did not substantially affect the isotopic ratios or contribute to the chemical load. Changes in the chemical load were not associated with changes in the surficial geologybetween the stream-water sampling sites. Water levels and chemical ratios indicate no ground-water inflow from the Thermopolis Anticline geothermal system to Owl Creek.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water and stream-water interaction in the Owl Creek basin, Wyoming
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
iv, 23 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.