Boone and Roubidoux Aquifers Study

Science Center Objects

The objective of the study is to conduct an investigation of the hydrogeology of the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers that will provide information to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board that will enable that agency to determine maximum annual yield of the aquifers based on different proposed management plans.

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SUMMARY

The Boone and Roubidoux aquifers are located in northeastern Oklahoma and underlie about 3,100 square miles and 4,600 square miles, respectively, in Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Delaware, Haskell, Le Flore, Mayes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Nowata, Ottawa, Rogers, Sequoyah, and Wagoner counties. The Boone aquifer is considered a minor aquifer by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (having an average well yield of less than 50 gallons per minute) and supplies groundwater for domestic purposes, with some agricultural, commercial, and public water uses. The Roubidoux aquifer is considered a major aquifer by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (having an average well yield of at least 50 gallons per minute) and supplies groundwater for public water uses, commerce, industry, and rural water districts. The 1973 Oklahoma water law requires the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to conduct hydrologic investigations of the State’s aquifers (termed “groundwater basins”), and to determine amounts of water that may be withdrawn by permitted water users.  At the present time (2017), the maximum annual yield (MAY) has not been determined for the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers. The objective of the study is to conduct an investigation of the hydrogeology of the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers that will provide information to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board that will enable that agency to determine maximum annual yield of the aquifers based on different proposed management plans.

BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM

The northeastern region of Oklahoma where the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers are located, includes the cities of Miami, Tahlequah, Pryor, Sallisaw, and Vinita (fig. 1). This region is expected to have an increase in total water demand of approximately 54 percent from 2010 to 2060 (OWRB Comprehensive Water Plan, 2012). Major rivers in the basin are the Grand (Neosho) River, the Spring River, and the Illinois River, including tributaries such as the Elk River, Spavinaw Creek, Osage Creek, and Baron Fork  (fig. 2). The two main sources for groundwater in northeastern Oklahoma are the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers. The Boone aquifer, is part of the Springfield Plateau Aquifer System, and is located on the Springfield Plateau of Missouri and Arkansas, extends into eastern Oklahoma, and is an important source of water for domestic water use although wells typically produce less than 10 gallons per minute (gpm) (OWRB Comprehensive Water Plan, 2012). The Boone aquifer generally is unconfined and underlies the ground surface where not removed by erosion. Stratigraphically below and, presumably, hydraulically separated from the Boone aquifer by the Ozark confining unit is the Roubidoux aquifer.

The Roubidoux aquifer is part of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system that extends across southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, and into northeastern Oklahoma. The Roubidoux aquifer is typically more than 400-ft deep over most of the study area and typically does not outcrop in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma the Roubidoux aquifer is classified as a major bedrock aquifer that provides water for municipal, agricultural, industrial, and domestic use, and well yield is highly variable, ranging from 25 to greater than 1,000 gpm (OWRB Comprehensive Water Plan, 2012). Determining the effects of pumping on the water supply in the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers is important for planning for growth in water demands in northeastern Oklahoma.

The 1973 Oklahoma water law requires that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) conduct hydrologic investigations of the State’s aquifers (termed “groundwater basins”), and determine amounts of water that may be withdrawn by permitted water users.  At the present time (2017), maximum annual yields (MAY’s) have not been determined for the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers. The MAY of a groundwater basin is defined by the OWRB as to be the total amount of fresh groundwater that can be withdrawn while allowing a minimum 20-year life of a basin based on that withdrawal. Until a MAY determination for an aquifer is made, water users are issued a temporary permit allowing withdrawal of up to 2 acre-feet per year.  OWRB typically uses a hydrogeological study that includes a numerical groundwater-flow model to determine a MAY.  These models take into consideration the rate of natural recharge, total discharge, and aquifer transmissivity.

To ensure that enough potable fresh water will be available to support a growing population and economy in northeastern Oklahoma, planning and managing the water resources of the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers is essential. Successful groundwater management requires an understanding of the hydrology of the groundwater system and of the environmental effects and other consequences that may result from pumping. It is important to understand the range of climatic variability and to consider the potential long-term changes in climate to sustain water availability for water use and the environment in times of drought. Finally, to properly manage the water resources of the area, a network of wells and streamgages will be necessary to monitor long-term trends in water levels and streamflow.

OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE

The objectives of this study are to describe the climate, hydrology, and hydrogeology for the Boone aquifer, the underlying Ozark confining unit, and the Roubidoux aquifer, and evaluate effects of potential future transient stresses and various pumping and climate scenarios on available groundwater. These objectives include delineating the western extent of the freshwater in the Roubidoux aquifer.

The scope of this study is the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers in Oklahoma, including defining the extent of the confining unit between these aquifers, in northeastern Oklahoma down to the Precambrian basement granite as shown on figures 1-2 and table 1, however, these specified extents will be updated based on the data analyzed during the course of the investigation.

RELEVANCE AND BENEFITS

This proposal is a continuation of a series of groundwater investigations for the alluvial and bedrock aquifers of Oklahoma to assist the OWRB with determination of a MAY, and the fulfillment of the recommendations of the 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (Oklahoma Water Resources Board, 2012). The proposed project would provide the Oklahoma Water Resources Board with hydrogeologic data and a ground-water flow model that can be used as a tool to manage the Boone and Roubidoux aquifers. Results of the hydrogeologic investigation will provide data and information to the OWRB that will enable them to determine the maximum annual yield of these aquifers based on their proposed management plans.

This study supports the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Mission Area Goals of (1) advancing the understanding and integrated modeling of processes that determine water availability and (2) predicting changes in the quantity and quality of water resources in response to changing climate, population, land-use, and management scenarios (Cynthia Lodge, USGS Associate Director Budget, Planning, and Integration, November 3, 2016, written communication).  

APPROACH

This study will be a collaborative project between the USGS Oklahoma Water Science Center (OKWSC) and the OWRB. The USGS will perform field work, data collection and interpretation, as well as the construction, calibration, and application of a numerical groundwater-flow model. The OWRB will provide access to hydrological and hydrogeological background information, including tabular and geographical data. The USGS and OWRB will collaborate on report writing.

The tasks for completing this study include (1) compiling existing climate, land-use, water-use, streamflow, and water-quality data, including data from previous studies such as the recent USGS Ozark Plateaus aquifer study, (2) collecting new field data, (3) describing the hydrogeological framework and conceptual-flow model of these aquifers, and (4) constructing, calibrating, and applying a transient groundwater-flow model to evaluate the potential future effects of pumping and drought. Lastly, the numerical groundwater-flow model data and results will be archived per USGS policies.