Water Resources of North Dakota

Hydrology and Water Quality of the Shell Valley Aquifer, North-Central North Dakota

By M.L. Strobel, R.R. Gunderson, and J.D. Wald

Abstract: Proceedings, North Dakota Water Quality Symposium, Bismarck, North Dakota, March 20-21 1996



The Turtle Mountain Tribe obtains water from the Shell Valley aquifer and is concerned about the long-term viability of the water supply. A study was undertaken to evaluate the hydrogeology of the aquifer, observe trends in ground-water levels, and assess the potential for contamination of the aquifer from chemicals introduced at the land surface. Existing and newly acquired information was used to determine ground-water gradients and velocities, zones of recharge and discharge, and effects from pumping wells. Water levels were measured monthly, and ground-water and surface-water samples collected during July and September 1995 were analyzed for major ions, trace elements, agricultural chemicals, and some aqueous hydrocarbons. Ground water in the aquifer typically flows to the south. Recharge is from infiltration of precipitation and snowmelt and, seasonally, from Wolf and Ox Creeks. Discharge is from evapotranspiration, ground-water discharge to the creeks, and pumpage. Water levels in the aquifer declined during the drought of 1988-92. During 1993-95, water levels in the northern part of the aquifer recovered to pre-drought conditions, but water levels in the southern part of the aquifer continued to decline. Agricultural chemicals were not detected in water samples from the aquifer. However, aqueous hydrocarbons were detected in most of the surface-water samples collected in July 1995 but not in the ground-water samples. Wells with screens that intersected the water table were installed during August 1995 at eight ground-water sites. Aqueous hydrocarbons were detected in most of the surface-water and some of the ground-water samples collected in September 1995.

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