USGS: Ozark aquifer could eventually dry up in spots

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | 3:42 p.m. CDT

JOPLIN — The Ozark aquifer, a primary source of water in southwest Missouri, could go dry in places even with slight growth over the next 50 years, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS study showed pumping from the Ozark aquifer might not be sustainable at Carthage and Noel if a 1 percent annual increase in water-withdrawal rates occurs annually from 2007 to 2057, the Joplin Globe reported.

The USGS findings on the Ozarks Plateaus aquifer system were based on a groundwater flow model for the aquifer, which is used in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

"The model represents a management tool for better understanding the potential fate of this important water resource under various pumping scenarios," John Czarnecki, a USGS hydrologist, said in the study.

A 4 percent annual increase would mean pumping would not be sustainable from the aquifer near Joplin and at Miami, Okla., according to the study. Water levels have declined as much as 400 to 500 feet in some parts of the Ozark aquifer since 1960.

The report said that in 2006, Missouri used 87 percent of the total water pumped from the Ozark aquifer, Kansas used 7 percent, and Oklahoma used 6 percent. Arkansas' water use within the model area was minor, the USGS said.

Donita Turk, public affairs coordinator for the USGS Kansas Water Science Center, said the study sheds new light on understanding how the aquifer will respond to future water withdrawals in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Some of the major pumping sites in the area include Carthage, Noel and Joplin in Missouri; Pittsburg in Kansas; and Miami in Oklahoma.

Turk said information acquired from the model will help water managers make decisions about the long-term viability of groundwater as a water source for the region.

The study and the model it used will be the topic of a public forum Wednesday evening at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.


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