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Scientific-Investigations Report 2009–5207

Prepared in cooperation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the Arkansas Geological Survey

Water Levels and Selected Water-Quality Conditions in the Sparta-Memphis Aquifer (Middle Claiborne Aquifer) in Arkansas, Spring-Summer 2007

By T.P. Schrader


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The U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the Arkansas Geological Survey has monitored water levels in the Sparta Sand of Claiborne Group and Memphis Sand of Claiborne Group (herein referred to as the Sparta Sand and the Memphis Sand, respectively), since the 1920s. Groundwater withdrawals have increased while water levels have declined since monitoring was initiated. Herein, aquifers in the Sparta Sand and Memphis Sand will be referred to as the Sparta-Memphis aquifer throughout Arkansas. During the spring of 2007, 309 water levels were measured in wells completed in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer. During the summer of 2007, 129 water-quality samples were collected and measured for temperature and specific conductance and 102 were collected and analyzed for chloride from wells completed in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer.

Water-level measurements collected in wells screened in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer were used to produce a regional potentiometric-surface map. The regional direction of groundwater flow in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer is generally to the south-southeast in the northern half of Arkansas and to the east and south in the southern half of Arkansas, away from the outcrop area except where affected by large ground-water withdrawals. The highest water-level altitude measured in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer was 326 feet above National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929, located in Grant County in the outcrop at the western boundary of the study area; the lowest water-level altitude was 161 feet below National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 in Union County near the southern boundary of the study area.

Eight cones of depression (generally represented by closed contours) are located in the following counties: Bradley, Drew, and Ashley; Calhoun; Cleveland; Columbia; Crittenden; Arkansas, Jefferson, and Lincoln; Cross and Poinsett; and Union. Two large depressions are shown on the 2007 potentiometric-surface map, centered in Jefferson and Union Counties, as a result of large withdrawals for industrial and public supplies. The depression centered in Jefferson County deepened and expanded in recent years into Arkansas and Prairie Counties as a result of large withdrawals for irrigation and public supply. The area enclosed within the 40-foot contour has expanded on the 2007 potentiometric-surface map when compared with the 2005 potentiometric-surface map. In 2003, the depression in Union County was elongated east and west and beginning to coalesce with the depression in Columbia County. The deepest measurement during 2007 in the center of the depression in Union County has risen 38 feet since 2003. The area enclosed by the deepest contour, 160 feet below National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929, on the 2007 potentiometric-surface map is less than 10 percent of the area on the 2005 potentiometric-surface map. A broad depression in western Poinsett and Cross Counties was first shown in the 1995 potentiometric-surface map caused by withdrawals for irrigation extending north to the Poinsett-Craighead County line, and south into Cross County.

A water-level difference map was constructed using the difference between water-level measurements made during 2003 and 2007 from 283 wells. The difference in water level between 2003 and 2007 ranged from -49.8 to 60.0 feet. Areas with a general rise in water levels are shown in northern Arkansas, Columbia, southern Jefferson, and most of Union Counties. In the area around west-central Union County, water levels rose as much as 60.0 feet with water levels in 15 wells rising 20 feet or more, which is an average annual rise of 5 feet or more. Water levels generally declined throughout most of the rest of Arkansas.

Hydrographs from 157 wells were constructed with a minimum of 25 years of water-level measurements. During the period 1983-2007, the county mean annual water level rose in Calhoun, Columbia, Hot Spring, and Lafayette Counties. Mean annual declines between 0.0 and 2.1 feet per year occurred in all other counties. In western Arkansas County, a hydrograph shows a 60-foot seasonal change in water level for the 2 years shown. The period of the 60-foot decline in water level coincides with the spring-summer irrigation season.

Specific conductance ranged from 35 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (µS/cm) in Ouachita County to 1,280 µS/cm at two wells in Monroe County. The mean specific conductance was 398 µS/cm and the median specific conductance was 334 µS/cm. Dissolved chloride concentrations ranged from 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in Lincoln County to 308 mg/L in Monroe County. The mean dissolved chloride concentration was 28.6 mg/L and the median dissolved chloride concentration was 8.7 mg/L. Although there is a regional increase in specific conductance to the east and south, anomalous increases occur in some parts of the study area. Large specific conductance values (greater than 700 µS/cm and less than 1,300 µS/cm) occur in samples from wells in Arkansas, Ashley, Monroe, Phillips, and Union Counties.

First posted January 11, 2010

For additional information contact:

USGS Arkansas Water Science Center
401 Hardin Road
Little Rock, AR 72211-3528

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Suggested citation:

Schrader, T.P., 2009, Water levels and selected water-quality conditions in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer (middle Claiborne aquifer) in Arkansas, spring–summer 2007: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5207, 50 p.




Sparta-Memphis Aquifer

Water Levels

Water-Quality Conditions


Selected References

Appendix 1. Water-level data collected during spring 2007 from wells completed in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer in Arkansas

Appendix 2. Difference in water level from 2003 to 2007 in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer in Arkansas

Appendix 3. Specific conductance, temperature, and chloride data from wells completed in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer in Arkansas, summer 2007

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