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North Fork Red River Alluvial Aquifer Study

In cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Contact: S. Jerrod Smith

Background

North Fork Red River Alluvial Aquifer study area map Groundwater in about 535 square miles of alluvial and terrace deposits along the North Fork Red River in western and central Oklahoma is used for irrigation, power, municipal, mining (oil and gas), livestock, and domestic supplies. Groundwater discharge from the alluvial aquifer sustains streamflow in the North Fork Red River during most of the year. Groundwater and surface water in the Lake Altus watershed are relied upon to provide water for municipalities and irrigation in southwestern Oklahoma. Groundwater from this alluvial aquifer is used by several municipalities, including Elk City, Sayre, and the Beckham County Rural Water District. The 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (Oklahoma Water Resources Board, 2012) determined that the North Fork Red River watershed will have shortages of surface water and groundwater by 2060.

The 1973 Oklahoma Water Law requires the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to conduct hydrologic surveys of the State's aquifers (termed "groundwater basins"), to determine the maximum annual yield of fresh water to be produced from each groundwater basin, and to determine amounts of water that may be withdrawn by permitted water users. Oklahoma State University completed a hydrologic investigation of the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer in 1980 (Kent, 1980; Paukstaitis, 1981), and the OWRB approved the maximum annual yield of the North Fork Red River groundwater basin in 1981. The OWRB is required to review and update the hydrologic surveys every 20 years.

Objectives

The objectives of this project are to update the 1980 hydrologic survey of the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer and to use a groundwater-flow model to evaluate the effects of projected groundwater withdrawals on aquifer storage and streamflow. Results from the study can be used by the OWRB to evaluate the allocation of water rights of the aquifer and to manage water resources in the North Fork Red River watershed.

Specific tasks include:

  1. Compile hydrologic data from 1980-2013 and collect new hydrologic data in 2013.
  2. Develop water budgets (recharge and discharge).
  3. Estimate hydraulic properties of the alluvial aquifer.
  4. Develop groundwater flow model (MODFLOW) of the aquifer and run simulations to test the effects of projected groundwater withdrawals on aquifer storage and streamflow.

Products

A final report for the project is planned for 2016 and will be a USGS Scientific Investigations Report possibly titled, "Hydrogeology and simulated effects of groundwater withdrawals in the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer, southwestern Oklahoma".

Lake Altus panorama by Jerrod Smith
Photo of Lake Altus and Wichita Mountains taken from Twin Mountain West, looking southeast: by Jerrod Smith, April 30, 2003.

North Fork Red River and alluvial deposits
North Fork Red River and alluvial deposits: photo by Jerrod Smith
Well completed in the North Fork Red River Alluvial Aquifer
Well completed in the North Fork Red River Alluvial Aquifer: photo by Kevin Smith
North Fork Red River photo by Kevin Smith
North Fork Red River: photo by Kevin Smith

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