Studies to determine the quality and quantity of Oklahoma’s ground water currently are underway by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its partners.

Will Central and Southwest Oklahoma Have Enough Clean Water?

The Garber-Wellington and Rush Springs Aquifer Studies addresses growing concerns about the future of water availability in central and southwest Oklahoma. 

Many metro-area cities, including Norman, Edmond, Nichols Hills and Midwest City, rely either solely or partly on ground water from the Garber-Wellington Aquifer. This water body, also known as the Central Oklahoma aquifer, underlies almost 3,000 square miles of the state. A team of scientists from the USGS, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, Oklahoma Geological Survey and Tinker Air Force Base have been collaborating and sharing data to better understand this vital aquifer. A regional model will be used to predict the impacts of long-term ground water withdrawals and simulate water-management strategies 

Scientists are conducting a pump test at a municipal ground water well within the city of Norman from Mar. 1- 14. The well will be monitored while being shut off and pumped to determine flow and storage properties of the aquifer. The test also will be a teaching opportunity for select Oklahoma State University students. This study is part of a USGS and Oklahoma Water Resources Board multi-year cooperative Garber-Wellington Water Management Study.   

The Rush Springs Aquifer supplies 10 percent of the Oklahoma’s ground water resources. The aquifer provides irrigation water for productive cropland and livestock operations in southwest Oklahoma. 

Both of these aquifers have areas with elevated concentrations of potentially harmful, yet naturally occurring metals such as arsenic, chromium and uranium. The USGS is working with tribal, state and local governments in Oklahoma to determine where those metals occur in greater concentrations. USGS also has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Norman to develop treatment methods. This information can be used by the public so they can avoid drinking potentially harmful water or use treatment methods to reduce concentrations of these metals to prevent exceedance of drinking water standards.

Ground Water Effects on Tourism?

There are concerns of a future drought in the southern Oklahoma Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, which is the foundation of water-based tourism in the area. Increased water use and possible intrastate water transfers may cause decrease in local spring and streamflow. The USGS has been working with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and other stakeholders to evaluate the water quality of water in the aquifer. Models are being developed to simulate different scenarios of climate and water use to predict sustainable amounts of water use for the future. 

What about Salty Ground Water?

Like the rest of the United States., fresh ground water in Oklahoma is underlain by salt water that cannot be used for drinking water, crop irrigation and sustaining livestock without expensive treatment. As part of a USGS National Program, the Oklahoma Water Science Center is mapping the depths and distribution of saline ground water that will be of value to managers and scientists planning for future water-resource needs.