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Generalized potentiometric maps of the Fort Union, Hell Creek, and Fox Hills aquifers within the Standing Rock Reservation

February 2, 2024

Generalized potentiometric surfaces of the Fort Union, Hell Creek, and Fox Hills aquifers were constructed to assess the groundwater resources of the Standing Rock Reservation. Additionally, this information can provide water managers with tools and data to effectively manage water resources in the future. Previous studies that mapped the geology and hydrogeology of the area at differing scales were used to confirm in which aquifer the study wells were completed. Water-level data from wells are provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater System Inventory database, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the North Dakota Department of Water Resources. Hydrographs were constructed for five selected observation wells to evaluate historical water-level fluctuations and trends. Hydrographs for the Hell Creek aquifer showed a flat trend with a rise in 2020. Hydrographs for the deeper Fox Hills aquifer showed that water levels fluctuated in response to climatic conditions and demonstrated an increasing trend in water-level elevations starting in 2010. Hydrographs were not constructed for any wells completed in the Fort Union Formation because none of the wells had continuous long-term measurements.

Generalized potentiometric surfaces, constructed from interpolating water-level elevations, gave insight into groundwater flow directions. Groundwater in the Fort Union aquifer likely flows radially outward from the northwest part of the study area to the northeast and south-southeast parts. Groundwater in the Hell Creek aquifer generally flows from higher elevations in the northwest towards lower areas, where surface-water tributaries have incised into the aquifer. Groundwater in the Fox Hills aquifer likely flows from higher elevations in the west, southwest, and central parts of the study area towards the valleys of the Grand River and Missouri River.

Most wells used for constructing potentiometric maps had only one recorded water-level measurement from drillers at the time of well construction. These measurements are often subject to error because the well is still recovering and because of spatial limitations of data availability. Also, because single water-level measurements were recorded at different points in time, additional uncertainty is introduced by fluctuating climatic conditions effect on water levels. Potentiometric map interpretation limitations are a result of areas with sparse data. Limitations also arise from potentiometric surfaces generalizing a complex and dynamic hydrogeologic system; however, the generalized potentiometric surface maps can be used to assist water managers and can help prioritize locations for future monitoring in areas with high uncertainty from sparse existing data.

Publication Year 2024
Title Generalized potentiometric maps of the Fort Union, Hell Creek, and Fox Hills aquifers within the Standing Rock Reservation
DOI 10.3133/sim3516
Authors Todd M. Anderson, Robert F. Lundgren
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3516
Index ID sim3516
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Dakota Water Science Center