North Fork Red River Aquifer Study

Science Center Objects

In 2012 the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the OWRB, began an update of the hydrologic investigation and development of a groundwater-flow model for the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer in Beckham, Greer, Jackson, and Kiowa Counties.

Lake Altus dam from Quartz Mountain
Lake Altus dam from Quartz Mountain.(Credit: Austin Baze. Used with permission from photographer.)

The 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan projected substantial surface-water and alluvial groundwater supply shortages in the North Fork Red River watershed by 2060. Surface-water resources, which are already fully allocated in most of the watershed, are largely dependent on base flows sustained by groundwater discharge. The recent prolonged drought, which severely affected southwest Oklahoma, has exacerbated these projected water-supply shortages and raised additional concerns about the reliability of water supplies for irrigation and municipal use. The 1973 Oklahoma Water Law requires the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to conduct hydrologic investigations of the State’s aquifers to determine the maximum annual yield of fresh water that may be produced from each groundwater basin and the amount of water that may be allocated to each acre of land overlying the basin. The last hydrologic investigation of the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer was completed in 1980 and prompted the OWRB to set the maximum annual yield of groundwater from the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer at 343,042 acre-feet, which translated to a maximum permitted withdrawal rate of 1 acre-foot per acre per year.

In 2012 the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the OWRB, began an update of the hydrologic investigation and development of a groundwater-flow model for the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer in Beckham, Greer, Jackson, and Kiowa Counties. The groundwater-flow model, which simulates changes in aquifer storage in response to monthly changes in aquifer recharge and water use from 1980 to 2013, was calibrated to measured groundwater levels and stream base flows. The calibrated groundwater-flow model will be used to project estimated groundwater storage volumes (water availability) resulting from hypothetical future scenarios of water use and drought. The hydrologic investigation report and documented groundwater-flow model are scheduled for publication in the summer of 2017. Results from the hydrologic investigation and model simulations will be used by the OWRB to evaluate and manage the allocation of water from the North Fork Red River alluvial aquifer.

Smith, S.J., Ellis, J.H., Wagner, D.L., and Peterson, S.M., 2017, Hydrogeology and simulated groundwater flow and availability in the North Fork Red River aquifer, southwest Oklahoma, 1980–2013: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5098, 107 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175098 with data release at https://doi.org/10.5066/F7JQ0ZXH.