The Benefits and Potential for Well Fields in the Mississippi Delta

Author(s): Bowling, T.; Janes, L.; Pennington, D.

Over the last 30 years, withdrawals from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer (MRVA) have exceeded the aquifers natural ability to recharge resulting in a significant decline in the groundwater table in the Mississippi Delta. As water levels in the aquifer begin to drop, the dry season stream flows also begin to decline because less water is flowing from the aquifer into the streams. The portion of the aquifer underlying lands in close proximity to the Mississippi River are influenced by the fluctuations of water levels of the river system. During high and normal river stages, the Mississippi River can assist recharge of the groundwater aquifer near the river. During low river stages, groundwater from the aquifer can actually be lost by flowing back into the river. The Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District (YMD) has implemented and operated a working well field near Friar’s Point, MS to better utilize Mississippi River recharged groundwater. Since 2005 YMD has used Mississippi River influenced groundwater to augment flows in the Sunflower River. Groundwater is extracted from a series of 11 wells and discharged into a tributary of Swan Lake. Water then flows through a water control structure at the Swan Lake outlet into a series of tributaries before joining the Sunflower River north of Clarksdale, MS. Pumps are operated in order to maintain a 50 cubic foot per second flow rate at the Sunflower, MS river gauge. Since 2012, YMD has monitored wells along the Mississippi River to develop a dataset in order to determine the extent of the Mississippi River’s influence on the MRVA. By installing extraction wells in areas where the Mississippi River is in direct contact with the MRVA, well fields have the potential to capture clean, filtered Mississippi River water without adversely affecting the MRVA. Captured Mississippi River water can then be conveyed inland to aid in times of low flow to assist aquatic ecosystems and provide an abundance of surface water irrigation opportunities for the Mississippi Delta.
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