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Surface Water Studies

Hydrologic Investigations


Stream system boundaries in Oklahoma are defined by watersheds identified through 11-unit Hydrologic Unit Codes developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Primarily for purposes related to water use and administration, the Red River Basin is divided into 18 stream systems while the Arkansas River Basin is divided into 17 systems, depending upon the watersheds of streams and rivers that contribute precipitation run-off to those streams. Some stream systems are further divided into subsystems.

Hydrologic investigations of surface waters are dependent upon data gathered at streamflow and water quality discharge monitoring stations operated throughout the state by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Data obtained from the statewide streamflow monitoring network can be used for many purposes, including flood prediction, drought monitoring, development of reservoir operation plans, and other related planning activities. Due to limitations on the number of streamflow monitoring sites available in Oklahoma, streamflow modeling is becoming an increasingly important tool to estimate streamflow values between monitoring stations and in watersheds deficient of monitoring sites.

Characterization of the watershed is necessary to determine factors affecting streamflow. Variation of slope over a watershed, land use, precipitation, stream size and gradient, amount of base flow from groundwater, water use, and other hydrologic characteristics significantly influence the amount of flow in a stream or river.

The interaction between surface and groundwaters has recently become a vital component of many OWRB hydrologic investigations. To develop realistic management options for our water supplies, we must understand this interaction and how development of one resource ultimately impacts the other.

Surface Water Allocation


The OWRB has developed a new support analysis tool that will facilitate adjudication and effective management of the OWRB water rights. Learn more...

Hydrologic studies facilitate the adjudication of water rights by determining water availability in each stream system. Hydrologic investigations have been completed on all of the state's stream systems (23 in the Red River Basin and 26 in the Arkansas River Basin); updates of these studies are underway.

The OWRB also conducts or supervises studies of reservoir yield that are critical to determining the amount of water supply available for municipalities, rural water districts, industries and other water users. Yield, an estimate of the amount of water that can be dependably appropriated from a specific source, is determined by inflow, evaporation and related factors.

Current Studies

  • Progress has been made in the development and implementation of stream water allocation models for stream systems in Oklahoma, which are being used as both a planning and water rights management tool.
  • Allocation models have been developed for the Blue River; Muddy Boggy River and Clear Boggy Creek; Kiamichi River; Little River (state line); Upper Canadian; Deep Red, Cache Creek, and Beaver Creek; and Middle Canadian, Lower Canadian, and Little River (central Oklahoma); Verdigris and Caney Rivers; North Fork, Salt Form, and Elm Fork of the Red River basins.
  • Hydrologic investigations and reports for these basins are also being completed.
  • Stream water allocation models are currently being developed for the Washita River, Mud Creek, and Walnut Bayou River systems.
  • The OWRB and Bureau of Reclamation recently announced a cooperative study of western Oklahoma’s Upper Washita River Basin. The study will augment an ongoing hydrologic investigation of the Rush-Springs aquifer and ongoing development of the Washita surface water allocation model. Reclamation will directly contribute to the study by identifying the water supply impacts posed by climate variability scenarios as well as formulating options to augment the ability of Foss and Fort Cobb Master Conservancy Districts to satisfy the region’s growing water needs.[Fact Sheet]

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Page last updated: July 16, 2014

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