Rapid Recharge of Parts of the High Plains Aquifer Indicated by a Reconnaissance Study in Oklahoma, 1999

By William J. Andrews, Noel I. Osborn and Richard R. Luckey


The High Plains aquifer underlies about 174,000 square miles in parts of eight states, including about 7,100 square miles in northwestern Oklahoma (fig. 1). This aquifer consists of the saturated part of the Ogallala Formation and saturated materials of Quaternary Age that are hydraulically connected to the Ogallala. The High Plains aquifer in northwestern Oklahoma is the primary source of water to an important agricultural region. Most water is withdrawn from the aquifer for irrigating wheat and other grain crops, with the remainder used for livestock (primarily cattle and swine), municipal, and domestic needs. Historically, water from precipitation was thought to take hundreds or thousands of years to reach the water table because the depth of the water table is greater than 100 feet over most of the aquifer and the low-permeability beds in the Ogallala would impede downward flow. It also was thought that land uses would take a similar period of time to affect water quality in the aquifer.

Figure 1. Ground-water recharge ages for 12 wells and 1998 saturated thickness of the High Plains aquifer in Oklahoma.


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