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Canadian River Alluvial Aquifer Study

In cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Contact: Shana L. Mashburn


Canadian River Alluvial Aquifer study area map Groundwater in about 1,100 square miles of alluvial and terrace deposits along the Canadian River in western (Reach 1) and central (Reach 2) Oklahoma is used for irrigation, municipal, mining (oil and gas), livestock, and domestic supplies. Groundwater discharge from the alluvial aquifer sustains streamflow in the Canadian River during most of the year. Groundwater from this aquifer is used by several municipalities including Norman, Lexington, Tuttle, Newcastle, Goldsby, and Noble. The 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (Oklahoma Water Resources Board, 2012) determined that the Canadian River watershed is the most likely in the state to have shortages in surface water and the third most likely watershed to have shortages of groundwater by 2060.

The Canadian River alluvial aquifer is poorly defined in terms of areal and vertical extent, hydrology, and water quality. 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annual yield of fresh water to be produced from each groundwater basin, and to determine amounts of water that may be withdrawn by permitted users. At the present time (2013), a hydrologic survey has not been made of the Canadian River alluvial aquifer, and the maximum annual yield has not been determined. Until the determination is made, water users are issued a temporary permit for 2.0 (acre-feet/acre)/yr.


The objectives of this project are to conduct a hydrologic survey and characterize the water chemistry of the Canadian River alluvial aquifer in western and central Oklahoma, and to use groundwater-flow models to test the effects of groundwater withdrawals on aquifer storage and streamflow. The scope of the project is two reaches of the Canadian River alluvial aquifer in western and central Oklahoma from the Texas border to western Dewey County and from the western border of Canadian County to near Ada, Oklahoma. The project will use existing data of aquifer and hydrologic properties from wells and existing streamflow-gaging stations and new data collected in 2013-2014. The OWRB can use the results from the study to evaluate the allocation of water rights of the aquifer and to manage water resources of the Canadian River Watershed.

Specific tasks include:

  1. Determine the areal and vertical extent of the alluvial aquifer.
  2. Compile extant hydrologic data through 2012 and collect new hydrologic data in 2013-2015.
  3. Characterize general groundwater quality.
  4. Develop water budgets (recharge and discharge).
  5. Estimate hydraulic properties of the alluvial aquifer.
  6. Construct groundwater flow models (MODFLOW) of the aquifer and run simulations to test the effects of projected groundwater withdrawals on aquifer storage and streamflow.


A final report for the project is planned for 2016 and will be a USGS Scientific Investigations Report possibly titled, "Groundwater Quality, Hydrogeology, and Simulated Effects of Groundwater Withdrawals in the Canadian River Alluvial Aquifer, Western and Central Oklahoma".

Canadian River panorama by Jerrod Smith
Canadian River panorama: by Jerrod Smith

Wind-powered stock well completed in the Canadian River Alluvial Aquifer
Wind-powered stock well completed in the Canadian River Alluvial Aquifer: photo by Kevin Smith
Magnification of alluvial sample near Taloga, Oklahoma
Magnification of alluvial sample near Taloga, Oklahoma: photo by Jerrod Smith

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