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The Ozark Plateaus Regional Aquifer Study—Documentation of a groundwater-flow model constructed to assess water availability in the Ozark Plateaus

March 30, 2018

Recent short-term drought conditions have emphasized the need to better understand the delicate balance between abundance, sustainability, and scarcity of groundwater in the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system. In 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey began construction of a groundwater-flow model as a tool for the assessment of groundwater availability in the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system. The model was developed to benefit concurrent and future investigations involving groundwater-pumping scenarios, optimization, particle transport, and groundwater-monitoring network analysis.

The groundwater model simulates 116 years (1900–2015) of hydrologic conditions and the response of the groundwater system to changes in stress including changes in recharge and groundwater pumping for water supply. Semiseasonal stress periods were simulated from the later part of 1991 to 2015 and represent higher demand and lower recharge in the spring and summer months and lower demand and higher recharge in the fall and winter months. Groundwater pumping increases throughout the simulation period with a maximum rate of about 600 million gallons per day (Mgal/d).

The process of matching historical hydrologic data for the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system model was accomplished by a combination of manual changes to parameter values and automated calibration methods. Observation data used in the development and evaluation of the model included 19,045 hydraulic-head observations from 6,683 wells within the model area. Observation data also included stream leakage estimates summed to calculate a net gain or net loss value for approximately 81 named streams.

The majority (mean of over 95 percent) of the recharge component is discharged through streams simulated in the model. The total simulated discharge to streams fluctuates seasonally between 7,500 and 17,500 Mgal/d with a mean outflow of 11,500 Mgal/d. Much of the remaining balance between modeled recharge inflows and stream outflows is made up by water moving into or out of storage in the aquifer system resulting in changes in modeled groundwater levels.

The goal of the model was to develop a model capable of suitable accuracy at regional scales. The intent was not to reproduce individual local-scale details, which are typically not possible given the uniform cell size of 1 square mile. Although the model may not represent each local-scale detail, the model can be applied for a better understanding of the regional flow system and to evaluate responses to changes in climate and groundwater pumping.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title The Ozark Plateaus Regional Aquifer Study—Documentation of a groundwater-flow model constructed to assess water availability in the Ozark Plateaus
DOI 10.3133/sir20185035
Authors Brian R. Clark, Joseph M. Richards, Katherine J. Knierim
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2018-5035
Index ID sir20185035
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center