Options for utilizing alternative sources of water to alleviate overdraft from the Sparta aquifer and ensure that the aquifer can continue to provide abundant water of excellent quality for the future are being evaluated by water managers in Union County. Sustainable yield is a critical element in identifying and designing viable water supply alternatives. With sustainable yield defined and a knowledge of total water demand in an area, any unmet demand can be calculated. The ground-water flow model of the Sparta aquifer was used to estimate sustainable yield using an iterative approach.
The Sparta aquifer is a confined aquifer of regional importance that comprises a sequence of unconsolidated sand units that are contained within the Sparta Sand. Currently, the rate of withdrawal in some areas greatly exceeds the rate of recharge to the aquifer and considerable water-level declines have occurred. Ground-water flow model results indicate that the aquifer cannot continue to meet growing water-use demands indefinitely and that water levels will drop below the top of the primary producing sand unit in Union County (locally termed the El Dorado sand) by 2008 if current water-use trends continue. Declines of that magnitude will initiate dewatering of the El Dorado sand.
The sustainable yield of the aquifer was calculated by targeting a specified minimum acceptable water level within Union County and varying Union County pumpage within the model to achieve the target water level. Selection of the minimum target water level for sustainable-yield estimation was an important criterion for the modeling effort. In keeping with the State Critical Ground-Water Area designation criteria and the desire of water managers in Union County to improve aquifer conditions and bring the area out of the Critical Ground-Water Area designation, the approximate altitude of the top of the Sparta Sand in central Union County was used as the minimum water level target for estimation of sustainable yield in the county. A specific category of sustainable yield? stabilization yield, reflecting the amount of water that the aquifer can provide while maintaining current water levels? also was determined and provides information for short-term management. The top of the primary producing sand unit (the El Dorado sand) was used as the minimum water-level target for estimating stabilization yield in the county because current minimum water levels in central Union County are near the top of the El Dorado sand.
Model results show that withdrawals from the Sparta aquifer in Union County must be reduced to 28 percent of 1997 values to achieve sustainable yield and maintain water levels at the top of the Sparta Sand if future pumpage outside of Union County is assumed to increase at the rate observed from 1985-1997. Results of the simulation define a very large current unmet demand and represent a substantial reduction in the county?s current dependence upon the aquifer. If future pumpage outside of Union County is assumed to increase at double the rate observed from 1985-1997, withdrawals from the Sparta aquifer in Union County must be reduced to 25 percent of 1997 values to achieve sustainable yield. Withdrawals from the Sparta aquifer in Union County must be reduced to about 88 to 91 percent (depending on pumpage growth outside of the county) of 1997 values to stabilize water levels at the top of the El Dorado sand. This result shows that 1997 rate of withdrawal in the county is considerably greater than the rate needed to halt the rapid decline in water levels.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Sustainable-yield estimation for the Sparta Aquifer in Union County, Arkansas
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
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