Hydrogeology and preliminary assessment of regional flow in the Upper Cretaceous and adjacent aquifers in the Northern Mississippi embayment

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4000

by J.V. Brahana and T.O. Mesko

This report is available as a pdf below


On a regional scale, the ground-water system of the northern Mississippi embayment is composed of a series of nonindurated elastic sediments that overlie a thick sequence of Paleozoic carbonates, sandstones, and shales. Precambrian crystalline rocks form both the structural and the hydrogeologic basement throughout the northern embayment. The units that comprise the hydrogeologic framework of this study are the alluvium-lower Wilcox aquifer, the Midway confining unit, the Upper Cretaceous aquifer, the Cretaceous-Paleozoic confining unit, and the Ozark-St. Francois aquifer. The Upper Cretaceous aquifer of Late Cretaceous age is the primary focus of this investigation; the study is part of the Gulf Coast Regional Aquifer-System Analysis.

A ground-water flow model was developed as the main tool to refine the concepts of deep regional flow in the northern Mississippi embayment. This four layer finite-difference model enabled testing of alternative boundary concepts and provided a refined definition of the hydrologic budget of the deep aquifers.

The alluvium-lower Wilcox aquifer, the Upper Cretaceous aquifer, and the Ozark-St.Francois aquifer form layers 2 through 4, respectively. Layer 1 is an inactive layer of constant heads representing shallow water levels, which are a major control on recharge to and discharge from the regional system. A matrix of leakance values simulates each confining unit, allowing vertical interchange of water between different aquifers. The model was calibrated to 1980 conditions by using the assumption that 1980 was near steady-state conditions; it was calibrated to simulate observed heads within acceptable limits. For this preliminary model, calculated heads were found to be most sensitive to pumping, and least sensitive to the leakance.

By using all available water-quality and water-level data, alternative boundary conditions were tested by comparing model simulated heads to observed heads. Simulation indicated that the major discharge zone for the Upper Cretaceous aquifer occurred along a narrow area coincident with the boundary of a buried rift.

The results of the early modeling effort also contribute to a better understanding of the regional hydrologic budget, indicating that upward leakage from the Ozark-St. Francois aquifer to the Upper Cretaceous aquifer is about 43 cubic feet per second, with about 30 cubic feet per second occuring west of the western margin of the embayment. Calculations suggest upward recharge of about 68 cubic feet per second occurs to the lower Wilcox-alluvium aquifer from the Upper Cretaceous aquifer. Simulation results also indicate that the Midway is an effective regional confining unit.

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