Groundwater recharge and chemical evolution in the southern High Plains of Texas, USA

Alan E. Fryar, William F. Mullican, Stephen A. Macko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The unconfined High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer is the largest aquifer in the USA and the primary water supply for the semiarid southern High Plains of Texas and New Mexico. Analyses of water and soils northeast of Amarillo, Texas, together with data from other regional studies, indicate that processes during recharge control the composition of unconfined groundwater in the northern half of the southern High Plains. Solute and isotopic data are consistent with a sequence of episodic precipitation, concentration of solutes in upland soils by evapotranspiration, runoff, and infiltration beneath playas and ditches (modified locally by return flow of wastewater and irrigation tailwater). Plausible reactions during recharge include oxidation of organic matter, dissolution and exsolution of CO2, dissolution of CaCO3, silicate weathering, and cation exchange. Si and 14C data suggest leakage from perched aquifers to the High Plains aquifer. Plausible mass-balance models for the High Plains aquifer include scenarios of flow with leakage but not reactions, flow with reactions but not leakage, and flow with neither reactions nor leakage. Mechanisms of recharge and chemical evolution delineated in this study agree with those noted for other aquifers in the south-central and southwestern USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-542
Number of pages21
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Groundwater recharge
  • High plains
  • Hydrochemical modeling
  • Hydrochemistry
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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