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Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5036

Geochemical Investigation of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, South-Central Oklahoma, 2004–06

By Scott Christenson, Andrew G. Hunt, and David L. Parkhurst


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A geochemical reconnaissance investigation of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in south-central Oklahoma was initiated in 2004 to characterize the ground-water quality at an aquifer scale, to describe the chemical evolution of ground water as it flows from recharge areas to discharge in wells and springs, and to determine the residence time of ground water in the aquifer. Thirty-six water samples were collected from 32 wells and springs distributed across the aquifer for chemical analysis of major ions, trace elements, isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen, dissolved gases, and age-dating tracers.

In general, the waters from wells and springs in the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer are chemically suitable for all regulated uses, such as public supplies. Dissolved solids concentrations are low, with a median of 347 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Two domestic wells produced water with nitrate concentrations that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s nitrate maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L. Samples from two wells in the confined part of the aquifer exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL) for chloride of 250 mg/L and the SMCL of 500 mg/L for dissolved solids. Water samples from these two wells are not representative of water samples from the other wells and springs completed in the unconfined part of the aquifer. No other water samples from the Arbuckle-Simpson geochemical reconnaissance exceeded MCLs or SMCLs, although not every chemical constituent for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a MCL or SMCL was analyzed as part of the Arbuckle-Simpson geochemical investigation.

The major ion chemistry of 34 of the 36 samples indicates the water is a calcium bicarbonate or calcium magnesium bicarbonate water type. Calcium bicarbonate water type is found in the western part of the aquifer, which is predominantly limestone. Calcium magnesium bicarbonate water is found in the eastern part of the aquifer, which is predominantly a dolomite. The major ion chemistry for these 34 samples is consistent with a set of water-rock interactions. Rainfall infiltrates the soil zone, where the host rock, limestone or dolomite, dissolves as a result of uptake of carbon dioxide gas. Some continued dissolution of dolomite and precipitation of calcite occur as the water flows through the saturated zone.

The major ion chemistry of the two samples from wells completed in the confined part of the aquifer indicates the water is a sodium chloride type. Geochemical inverse modeling determined that mixing of calcite-saturated recharge water with brine and dissolving calcite, dolomite, and gypsum accounts for the water composition of these two samples. One of the two samples, collected at Vendome Well in Chickasaw National Recreation Area, had a mixing fraction of brine of about 1 percent. The brine component of the sample at Vendome Well is likely to account for the relatively large concentrations of many of the trace elements (potassium, fluoride, bromide, iodide, ammonia, arsenic, boron, lithium, selenium, and strontium) measured in the water sample.

Carbon-14, helium-3/tritium, and chlorofluorocarbons were used to calculate ground-water ages, recharge temperatures, and mixtures of ground water in the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. Thirty four of 36 water samples recharged the aquifer after 1950, indicating that water is moving quickly from recharge areas to discharge at streams and springs. Two exceptions to this classification were noted in samples 6 and 15 (Vendome Well). Ground-water ages determined for these two samples by using carbon-14 are 34,000 years (site 6) and 10,500 years (site 15).

Concentrations of dissolved argon, neon, and xenon in water samples were used to determine the temperature of the water when it recharged the aquifer. The mean annual air temperature at Ada, Oklahoma, is 16 degrees Celsius (°C) and the median temperature of the 30 reconnaissance water samples was 18.1 °C. The average recharge temperature of most samples is 14.3 +/- 2.2 °C, which is below the mean annual air tem­perature (16 °C). Calculating a weighted annual recharge temperature based on mean monthly recharge rates from hydrograph separation techniques and mean monthly air temperature at Ada, Oklahoma, produces a value of 14.2 °C. The weighted annual recharge temperature corroborates the calculated noble gas recharge temperatures and indicates that recharge occurs during the cooler months of the year. Recharge temperatures of water samples from sites 6 and 15, the two flowing wells producing water from confined parts of the aquifer, are clearly too cold (8.2 and 6.6 °C, respectively) to be associated with present day temperatures. The colder recharge temperatures are consistent with the ground-water ages for these samples (34,000 years for site 6 and 10,500 years for site 15), indicating recharge from an earlier, cooler time period, coupled with possible mass fractionation of the noble gases that decreases the overall recharge temperature.

First posted September 1, 2009

For additional information contact:

Director, U.S. Geological Survey
202 NW 66th Street, Building 7
Oklahoma City, OK 73116

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Suggested citation:

Christenson, Scott, Hunt, A.G., and Parkhurst, D.L., 2009, Geochemical investigation of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, South-central Oklahoma, 2004–06: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5036, 50 p.




Description of the Study Area

Geochemical Investigation


References Cited

Appendix 1

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