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Project Reports

Project Reports

The Water Resources Research Act of 1964 authorized the establishment of a water resources research and technology institute or center at a land-grant university in each state. As a result of the Water Resources Act, the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute (OWRRI, currently known as the Oklahoma Water Resources Center) was founded in 1965 at Oklahoma State University.

Although headquartered at OSU, the Oklahoma Water Resources Center serves the entire state of Oklahoma. The Center strives to help Oklahoma achieve high levels of water quality and sustainable use of our region’s water through integrated programs of research, education, training, and technology assistance.

The Center enlists the help of 24 state, federal, tribal, and private organizations through its Water Research Advisory Board, which sets priorities and selects projects for funding.

Explore project abstracts and reports from PIs funded through our USGS funding program in previous years using the links below. Project reports are also included in our Annual Reports. Final reports and a searchable database are available from 1966-2014 on e-Journals @ OSU.

Read about how USGS seed grants impacted the researchers and their students.

In addition to USGS-funded projects, the Water Center also administers DASNR-funded projects and the Berry Fellows Program.


2018 Funded Projects

  • Developing Seasonal Streamflow Forecasts to Inform Surface Water Management in Oklahoma
    (Tyson Ochsner, Erik Krueger, Briana Wyatt, and Eric Jones)
    • The forecasting methods developed here will enhance existing, proven streamflow modeling approaches used by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the incorporation of measured soil moisture data. This project aims to determine how the forecast accuracy improves by updating the initial conditions based on in situ soil moisture observations. Recent studies indicate that in situ soil moisture data can significantly improve water supply forecasts in the US Mountain West for lead times up to 3 months.
    • If successful, this project will lay the foundation for implementation of the new forecast methods by the NWS and NRCS for the benefit of water managers in Oklahoma and across the nation.
  • Control of Problematic Halanaerobiales that Limit the Reuse of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids
    (Joseph M. Suflita and Irene A. Davidova)
    • Oil and gas in Oklahoma are regularly extracted from unconventional plays using a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. Such practices use remarkable volumes of water (up to 1 x 106 barrels/d)1 to fracture formations and increase permeability. Roughly 10-60% of the injected water returns as produced water (PW) with total dissolved solids content up to 300,000 mg/liter.
    • This project is designed to explore methods to control the growth and activity of bacteria affiliated with order Halanaerobiales. Control of these organisms will preclude the accumulation of acids and sulfides that are major deterrents to the recycling of PW for subsequent shale fracturing efforts. Thus, less PW will require deep well disposal and reduce the potential for seismic activity. In addition, the reduction of sulfides will render the PW far less corrosive to the prevailing metallic infrastructure and diminish concerns during other PW disposal efforts.
  • Conserving Agricultural Water Resources in Oklahoma using Smart Technologies
    (Sumon Datta with Dr. Saleh Taghvaeian)
    • Irrigated agriculture is a major contributor to the economy of Oklahoma and plays a vital role in supplying the demand in food, feed, and fiber utilizing the State’s limited water resources. In Oklahoma, over 400,000 acres of irrigated cropland contribute to 50% of crop revenues. A sizable portion (41%) of total water withdrawals in Oklahoma goes to crop irrigation, making it a prime consumer of water. Therefore, improving irrigation scheduling will have significant impact on total irrigation withdrawals and can lead to water conservation.
    • Results of this study will provide valuable information on the accuracy, usability, and reliability of several major types of soil water sensors. These results will be helpful in selecting sensors that are suitable for different soils (i.e., clay or loam or sandy soils), or for soils with different salinity levels under different agro-climatic conditions in Oklahoma and will provide growers with local knowledge on best management practices and guidelines when it comes to efficient irrigation management using soil water sensors.
  • Evaluating the Potential of Sentinel-2 and Landsat Images for Mapping Open Surface Water Body Areas and Water Quality in Oklahoma
    (Zhenhua Zou with Dr. Xiangming Xiao)
    • Open surface water bodies are one of the important sources of water for agriculture, energy, commerce, industry, and public water supply. The numerous open surface water bodies across Oklahoma provide ~64% of the total fresh water withdrawal in Oklahoma. Annual maps of surface water bodies at high spatial resolution are critically important for water resource management. At present, annual water body maps at 30-m spatial resolution, derived from Landsat images, are available. However, streams and ponds with a width smaller than 30-m were not well captured because of the spatial resolution issue. Higher resolution, 10-m maps could be produced using techniques developed in our lab.
    • The expected results include: (1) open surface water body maps of Lake Texoma, Lake Thunderbird, and Grand Lake at the spatial resolution of 10-m in 2016 and 2017 and (2) reliable algorithms of chlorophyll-a estimation of Oklahoma lakes using Sentinel 2 and Landsat 7/8 images.

2017 Funded Projects

  • Utilizing Native Isopods to Assess the Connectivity and Quality of Oklahoma Groundwater
    (Ronald Bonett and Alexander Hess)
    • Due to their abundance, ease of collection, and wide distribution, aquatic isopods provide excellent utility for mapping watershed connectivity. Stream surveys have found isopods to be one of the most common benthic invertebrates, allowing for rapid detection and robust data collection. Further, groundwater isopods are distinct in appearance from surface counterparts, due to a loss of pigmentation and elongation of appendages. Lastly, isopod species are detritivores, filling a key trophic level in the nutrient cycling of groundwater systems and acting as bio-accumulators of waste products. [Read the interim report.]
    • Article: Predicting Oklahoma Groundwater Hydrology Using Isopod Distributions (by Pamela Abit)
  • Economics of Groundwater Interaction between Producers and Competing Crops
    (Karthik Ramaswamy with Dr. Art Stoecker)
    • The project will estimate the benefits and costs from use of the remaining groundwater in Oklahoma Panhandle when multiple producers compete for a common groundwater source. In most parts of the southern Great Plains, the water-levels been falling steadily since the1970s. Water-levels in the Oklahoma Panhandle Counties of Beaver, Cimarron, and Texas are declining at the rate of 1 to 3 feet per year. In Oklahoma, irrigation accounts for 86 percent of total groundwater use from Ogallala aquifer. [Read the interim report.]
  • The Impact of Drought on Vegetation Water Use in Different Climatic Divisions across Oklahoma
    (Kul Bikram Khand with Dr. Saleh Taghvaeian)
    • Water consumed by vegetation is a major component of surface water budget, having a significant impact on water availability at variable scales. The state of Oklahoma lies between eastern humid and western semi-arid climates with nine climatic divisions delineated based on precipitation and temperature gradients. These climatic differences impact the water use by different vegetation. At the same time, the vegetation water use behavior is impacted by weather extremes such as drought. Therefore, understanding the complex and spatially variable interactions among vegetation water use, climatic conditions, and drought can provide decision maker with critical information required to develop and optimize water management plans to conserve available water resources for agricultural and natural ecosystems. [Read the interim report.]
    • Video: Kul Khand: One of the Water Center's First Funded Students
  • Modeling Soil Moisture under Various Land Cover Types: Using Long-term Grassland Monitoring Data to Estimate Soil Moisture in Oklahoma Forests
    (Briana M. Wyatt with Drs. Tyson E. Ochsner and Chris B. Zou)
    • Soil moisture is an essential variable which affects climatic, hydrological, agricultural, and ecological systems. Due to the impact of soil moisture on important earth processes, in-situ soil monitoring networks are becoming more prevalent. However, the majority of soil moisture monitoring networks consider only one land cover type, usually grasslands, which limits the use of these data for areas with mixed land cover types. The Oklahoma Mesonet has monitored soil moisture at over 100 grassland sites for nearly two decades, but large areas of forest (12 million acres, or 28% of the state’s land area), cropland (~8 million acres, or 18%), and other land cover types have gone largely unmonitored. [Read the final report.]

2016 Funded Projects

  • Algal Remediation of Waste Water Produced during Hydraulic Fracturing
    (Nurhan Dunford)
    • Microalgae are ubiquitous photosynthetic microorganisms that are found both in marine and freshwater environments with a great potential to produce not only biomass as feedstock for renewable fuels, high-value natural products, food, and feed applications but also to provide a valid solution to the problem of environmental pollution. In particular, they are able to grow using different nutrients (mainly N and P), heavy metals and other contaminants from different wastewaters such as agricultural and animal, municipal, as well as industrial. In addition, they can thrive using the CO2 emitted for instance by coal fired power plants thereby reducing greenhouse gas level in the atmosphere. [Read the final report.]
    • Video: Algae Research
  • Western Oklahoma Irrigation Water and Energy Audits: Findings, Recommendations and Educational Materials
    (Scott Frazier, Saleh Taghvaeian, Jason Warren, Don Sternitzke, Cameron Murley)
    • Western Oklahoma is a semi-arid region that is very susceptible to drought and utilizes considerable amounts of irrigation water. Most of this irrigation is pumped ground water. Some of the irrigation is also shallow well or surface water. With water resources being consumed at higher rates for agricultural irrigation, farmers need to be as efficient as possible with the extraction and application of this resource. With increasing competition between rural and urban water needs, it will be necessary to document how well agricultural systems are utilizing water resources in order to maintain access. [Read the final report.]
  • Evaluating the Reuse of Swine Lagoon Effluent and Recycled Municipal Water for Agricultural Production
    (Hailin Zhang, Doug Hamilton, Saleh Taghvaeian, Scott Carter)
    • Significant amount of water in Oklahoma is used for crop irrigation. Water shortage in Oklahoma and the Southern Great Plains has become a major limitation for crop production and other uses, which will have a major impact on local economy. Therefore, alternative sources of irrigation water need to be explored. Treated municipal wastewater (TWW) is one of the most readily available alternative water sources, although infrastructures to use TWW for crop irrigation are lacking in most places and public acceptance is probably low because of the lack of field evaluations in the state. Currently, most TWW in the state is directly discharged to streams and rivers rather than recycled for crop production. [Read the final report.]


Reports for 1966 - Present