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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5232

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

Potentiometric Surfaces and Water-Level Trends in the Cockfield (Upper Claiborne) Aquifer in Southern Arkansas and the Wilcox (Lower Wilcox) Aquifer of Northeastern and Southern Arkansas, 2012

By Kirk D. Rodgers

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.53 MB)Abstract

The Cockfield aquifer, located in southern Arkansas, is composed of Eocene-age sand beds found near the base of the Cockfield Formation of Claiborne Group. The Wilcox aquifer, located in northeastern and southern Arkansas, is composed of Paleocene-age sand beds found in the middle to lower part of the Wilcox Group. The Cockfield and Wilcox aquifers are primary sources of groundwater. In 2010, withdrawals from the Cockfield aquifer in Arkansas totaled 19.2 million gallons per day (Mgal/d), and withdrawals from the Wilcox aquifer totaled 36.5 Mgal/d.

A study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the Arkansas Geological Survey to measure water levels associated with the Cockfield aquifer and the Wilcox aquifer in northeastern and southern Arkansas. Water levels were measured at 43 wells completed in the Cockfield aquifer and 47 wells completed in the Wilcox aquifer in February and March 2012. Measurements from 2012 are presented as potentiometric-surface maps and in combination with measurements from 2006 as water-level difference maps. Trends in water-level change over time within the Cockfield and Wilcox aquifers were determined using the water-level difference maps and selected well hydrographs.

The Cockfield aquifer study area in southern Arkansas is bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and on the west by the area that contains outcrops and subcrops of the Cockfield Formation. The northern boundary of the Cockfield aquifer study area is defined by the area that contains observation wells completed in the Cockfield aquifer and the southern boundary is the Louisiana State line.

The Wilcox aquifer study area in northeastern Arkansas is bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and on the north by the Missouri State line. The southern and western boundaries are defined by areas containing observation wells completed in the Wilcox aquifer or by outcrop areas on or near Crowleys Ridge. The Wilcox aquifer study area in southern Arkansas is defined by observation wells completed in the Wilcox aquifer or by areas that contain outcrops of the Wilcox Group, or both.

The potentiometric-surface map of the Cockfield aquifer shows the regional direction of groundwater flow was generally toward the east-southeast, except in areas of intense groundwater withdrawals such as southwestern Ashley County, where groundwater flows toward the town of Crossett. The highest water-level altitude measured was 350 feet (ft) above National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) in central Columbia County. The lowest water-level altitude measured was 40 ft above NGVD 29 in southeastern Lincoln County.

The water-level difference map for the Cockfield aquifer in Arkansas was constructed using 42 water-level measurements made during 2006 and 2012. The difference in water levels for the Cockfield aquifer ranged from 27.4 ft to -10.4 ft. The largest water-level rise was in Calhoun County, and the largest water-level decline was 10.4 ft in Union County. Of the 42 wells, 13 wells had a rise in water level, and the remaining 29 wells had a decline in water level.

Hydrographs for 32 wells in the Cockfield aquifer with historical water-level data were evaluated using linear regression to calculate the annual rise or decline for each well. These data were aggregated by county and statistically evaluated for the range, mean, and median of water-level change in each county. Hydrographs for Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Columbia, and Union Counties indicated both rising and declining water levels. The mean annual water-level rise or decline for Calhoun County was 0.00 foot per year (ft/yr) or unchanged. The mean annual water-level for Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Cleveland, Columbia, Lincoln, and Union Counties show declines ranging from -0.02 to -1.10 ft/yr.

Two potentiometric-surface maps, one for the southern area and one for the northeastern area, were constructed to show the altitude of the water surface in the Wilcox aquifer. The direction of groundwater flow in the northeastern area was generally towards the south-southwest except for some areas immediately adjacent to the Mississippi River where the flow was more eastward towards the river. The highest water-level altitude was 219 ft in northern Mississippi County, and the lowest water-level altitude was 123 ft near West Memphis in Crittenden County. The direction of groundwater flow in the northern part of the southern area was generally towards the southwest. The direction of groundwater flow in the southern part was in all directions because of two cones of depression and two water-level mounds. The highest water-level altitude measured was 394 ft at the center of a water-level mound in eastern Hot Spring County and a water-level mound in southwestern Hempstead County. The lowest water-level altitude measured was 145 ft at the center of the cone of depression in Clark County.

Water-level difference maps for the Wilcox aquifer in Arkansas were constructed using 47 water-level measurements made during 2006 and 2012. The difference in water levels for the Wilcox aquifer in the northeastern area ranged from 22.0 ft to -17.9 ft. The largest rise in water level occurred in Crittenden County, and the largest decline occurred in Lee County. Twenty-one wells had rising water levels, and 10 wells had declining water levels. The difference in water levels for the Wilcox aquifer in the southern area ranged from 18.1 ft to -4.2 ft. The largest rise and the largest decline in water level occurred in Nevada County. Twelve wells had rising water levels, and 4 wells had declining water levels.

Linear regression analysis of long-term hydrographs was used to determine the mean annual water-level rise and decline in the Wilcox aquifer in the northeastern and southern areas of Arkansas. In the northeastern area, the mean annual water level declined in all seven counties. The mean annual declines ranged from -0.55 ft/yr in Craighead County to -1.46 ft/yr in St. Francis County. In the southern area, the annual rise and decline calculations for wells with over 20 years of records indicate rising and declining water levels in Clark, Hot Spring, and Nevada Counties. The mean annual water level declined in all counties except Hot Spring County.

First posted February 2, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
401 Hardin Road
Little Rock, Arkansas 72211–3528
http://ar.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Rodgers, K.D., 2015, Potentiometric surfaces and water-level trends in the Cockfield (upper Claiborne) aquifer in southern Arkansas and the Wilcox (lower Wilcox) aquifer of northeastern and southern Arkansas, 2012: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5232, 46 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20145232.

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Cockfield (Upper Claiborne) Aquifer

Wilcox (Lower Wilcox) Aquifer

Summary

References Cited

Appendixes


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