The Red River begins in New Mexico, extends across the Texas Panhandle, and follows the Oklahoma-Texas border to Arkansas. In Texas, the river basin is 680 miles long (BEG 1996a) and its drainage area is 24,463 square miles (TWDB 1997). The major forks include the North, Salt, and Prairie Dog Town forks in the Panhandle and major tributaries include the Pease, Wichita, and Little Wichita rivers in north-central Texas.
The Red River, which borders Hardeman, Wilbarger, Wichita, Clay, Montague, Cooke, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, and Bowie Counties, is the second largest river associated with Texas at 1290 miles total length. Even though the river forms a major Texas boundary, it is considered to belong wholly to Oklahoma. For this reason, the Red River has not been investigated in-depth by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Above Clay County the Red River is seasonal, and recreational use is feasible only during periods of heavy run-off. The Wichita River flows into the Red River in Clay County.
The Red River is a popular recreational waterway from below Lake Texoma near Denison, Texas, to the Arkansas border near Texarkana; especially when Denison Dam is generating. In the summer months, Denison Dam usually releases water for power generation on the weekends. The Red River from Denison Dam to Arkansas flows through remote, rugged, wild country, with few points of access available.
The Red River Basin is bounded on the north by the Canadian River Basin and on the south by the Brazos, Trinity, and Sulphur river basins. The Red River extends from the northeast corner of the State along the Texas-Arkansas and Texas-Oklahoma state borders, across the Texas Panhandle to its headwaters in eastern New Mexico. The Red River Basin has a drainage area of 48,030 square miles. The watershed in Texas receives an average annual precipitation varying from 15 inches near the New Mexico border to 55 inches near the Arkansas border. (RRA, 1999).
The upper basin is largely comprised of prairie streams and rivers, with sandy bottoms; and contains substantial amounts of natural chlorides leading to unique stream fish assemblages. Low rolling hills and prairies and nearly level valleys characterize the lower basin. The Red River basin is contained within several physiographic provinces beginning with the Central High Plains in the upper basin, the North-Central Plains and Grand Prairie in the central portion, and the Blackland Prairies in the lower basin (BEG 1996b).
Rainfall varies from 15 inches per year in the upper basin to 55 inches per year in the lower basin (RRA ). Average streamflow of the Red River near the Texas-Arkansas state line averages 11,490 cubic feet per second.
Significant water development has occurred within the basin, with 5 major storage reservoirs (> 100,000 acre-feet) and storage capacity of over 3.7 million acre-feet. Lake Texoma, which impounds the Red River, is the fifth largest reservoir in the state. There are two primary water authorities (Red River Authority and Greater Texoma Water Authority) and one interstate compact—the Red River Compact was entered by the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas for the purpose of allocating basin waters among the states. Major population centers include Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Texarkana, Sherman, Paris and Denison.
Eleven water body segments are listed as impaired on the 2004 draft 303(d) list (TCEQ 2005). Seven are listed for not meeting the state water quality standard for bacteria. Little Wichita River, Beaver Creek, and the Upper Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River are listed for depressed dissolved oxygen concentrations. The North Fork Wichita River and Middle Fork Wichita River are listed for selenium (chronic) in water.
According to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) estimates of water use during 1996, 273,289 acre-feet of water were used in the portion of the Panhandle Water Planning Area (PWPA) located in the Red River Basin. Water used for irrigated agriculture accounted for about 76 percent of the total water use, with municipal use accounting for approximately 15 percent, and industrial uses accounting for less than 10 percent (TWDB, 1998).
According to the TWDB estimates of water use during 1996, 273,289 acre-feet of water were used in the portion of the PWPA located in the Red River Basin. Water used for irrigated agriculture accounted for about 76 percent of the total water use, with municipal use accounting for approximately 15 percent, and industrial uses accounting for less than 10 percent (TWDB, 1998).
Although surface water supplies account for a larger percent of the total water use in the Red River portion of the PWPA than in the Canadian River portion of the PWPA, less than 15 percent of the total water use in the Red River portion of the PWPA was provided by surface water sources.
Major reservoirs in the Red River basin of the PWPA include Greenbelt Reservoir and Bivens Lake, with a combined firm yield of more than 9,400 acre-feet. Other important reservoirs include Baylor Lake and Lake Childress in Childress County, Lake Tanglewood and Buffalo Lake near Canyon in Randall County, and Lake McClellan in southern Gray County.
Rivers and reservoirs within the planning area are recognized as important ecological resources. These are sources of diverse aquatic flora and fauna. Important river systems in the planning area are the Canadian River and the Red River. Reservoirs in the PWPA include Lake Meredith, Palo Duro Reservoir, Rita Blanca Lake, Marvin Lake, and Fryer Lake in the Canadian River Basin, and Greenbelt Reservoir, Bivens Reservoir, McClellan Lake, Lake Tanglewood, Baylor Lake, Lake Childress, and Buffalo Lake in the Red River Basin. The high salinity of much of the area's surface and groundwater resources, largely due to natural salt deposits, presents a challenge to natural resource planners and managers. Municipal, agricultural, and industrial water users strive to lower the salinity of certain surface-water supplies for higher uses. One method for this is by intercepting and disposing of the naturally saline flows of certain streams, usually originating from natural salt springs and seeps, in order to improve the quality of downstream surface-water supplies. There are several such chloride control projects, both existing and proposed, in the study area.
Greenbelt Reservoir is owned and operated by the Greenbelt Municipal and Industrial Water Authority (GM&IWA), and is located on the Salt Fork of the Red River near the city of Clarendon. Construction of Greenbelt Reservoir was completed in March 1968 and impoundment of water began on December 1966 (Freese & Nichols, 1978). The original storage capacity of Greenbelt was 59,100 acre-feet at the spillway elevation of 2,663.65 feet (TWDB, 1974).
Two yield studies have been completed for Greenbelt Reservoir since its original permit application in 1965 (Freese & Nichols, 1978 & 1997). The most recent of the studies estimated the firm yield of Greenbelt Reservoir to be 7,699 acre-feet/yr. The reservoir’s critical period occurred from August 1961 to December 1996, with a minimum content occurring in June 1996. The safe yield of the reservoir is estimated to be 6,350 acre-feet/yr (5.67 MGD). Inflow estimates prior to September 1967 were based on USGS gages near Mangum, Wellington, and Clarendon. Inflows after September 1967 were based on a volumetric balance of the reservoir with USGS surface elevation measurements taken at the dam. Net reservoir evaporation rates were derived from 1-degree quadrangle data published by the TWDB (TWDB, 1967). Reservoir operation studies also included an estimate of historical low-flow releases. Sedimentation rates characteristic of the area were used to estimate a reservoir capacity reduction of 5,770 acre-feet by 1996 (Freese & Nichols, 1997).
Based on analysis of existing studies and historical data, estimates of capacity, firm yield, and available supply of Greenbelt Reservoir were projected by decade for the planning period. As shown in Table 3-12, the yield is expected to decrease from 7,699 acre-feet in 2000 to 6,942 acre-feet by 2050.
Max Depth (Feet)
Water Level Fluctuation
12 miles west of Childress on the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River
Clear with 2-4 ft. visibility in lower reservoir; 1-2 ft in upper
Limited; some areas of pondweed
20 miles from Wichita Falls MSA
8 feet annually
1-2 ft. visibility
60 miles east of Amarillo and 4 miles north of Clarendon on the Salt Fork of the Red River
1,990 acres possible, currently about 1,500 acres
2-4 feet annually
4-6 ft. visibility
Vegetation in Greenbelt includes potamogeton, coontail, milfoil, and cattails. Vegetation can be dense around shoreline areas and coves. In Kelly Creek and the Salt Fork, there are stands of flooded timber.
15 miles southeast of Wichita Falls off US Highway 281
4-6 feet annually
1-2 foot visibility
Limited primarily to floating mats of American pondweed located around the state park and nearby coves, and some reeds when lake is at normal elevations. Due to fluctuating water levels and periodic high turbidity, there are periods with no vegetation.
Three miles northeast of Bonham off FM 898
Native emergent vegetation includes cattail, pondweed, and American lotus. Native submerged vegetation includes bushy pondweed and coontail.
On Pine Creek, a tributary of the Red River, 5 miles north of Paris in Lamar County
Moderate, 2-4 feet annually
30 miles from Wichita Falls on the Archer/Baylor county line
3 feet annually
2 to 4 ft. visibility
About one-third of the shore is lined with emergent vegetation. Submerged plants occupy about 420 acres, mainly on the northside coves west of the boat ramp.
Moderate amounts of submerged aquatics and hydrilla
Several major aquifers are found in the Red River Basin including Ogallala, Trinity Group, and Carrizo-Wilcox, as well as a few minor aquifers including the Blaine, Seymour alluvium, Blossom, and Nacatoch (BEG 1996b).
The Seymour is a major aquifer located in north central Texas and some Panhandle counties. The aquifer consists of isolated areas of alluvium that are erosional remnants of a larger area or areas. Thick accumulations overlie buried stream channels or sinkholes in underlying formations. This aquifer is under water-table conditions in most of its extent, but artesian conditions may occur where the water-bearing zone is overlain by clay. Fresh to slightly saline groundwater recoverable from storage from these scattered alluvial aquifers is estimated to be 3.18 million acre-feet based on 75 percent of the total storage. Annual effective recharge to the aquifer is approximately 215,200 acre-feet, or 5 percent of the average annual precipitation that falls on the aquifer outcrop. No significant long-term water-level declines have occurred in areas supplied by groundwater from the Seymour aquifer. The lower, more permeable part of the aquifer produces the greatest amount of groundwater. Yields of wells average about 300 gal/min and range from less than 100 gal/min to as much as 1,300 gal/min (Ashworth & Hopkins, 1995).
Water quality in these alluvial remnants generally ranges from fresh to slightly saline, although a few higher salinity problems may occur. The salinity has increased in many heavily-pumped areas to the point where the water has become unsuitable for domestic uses. Brine pollution from oil-field activities has resulted in localized contamination of former fresh groundwater supplies. Nitrate concentrations in excess of primary drinking-water standards are widespread in the Seymour groundwater (Ashworth & Hopkins, 1995).
The Blaine is a minor aquifer located in portions of Wheeler, Collingsworth, and Childress counties and extends into western Oklahoma. Saturated thickness of the formation in its northern region varies from approximately 10 to 300 feet. Recharge to the aquifer travels along solution channels which contribute to its overall poor water quality. Dissolved solids concentrations increase with depth and in natural discharge areas at the surface, but TDS concentrations in the aquifer are less than 10,000 mg/L. The primary use is for irrigation of highly salt-tolerant crops, with well yields varying from a few gallons per minute (gpm) to more than 1,500 gpm (Ashworth & Hopkins, 1995).
Problems affecting Habitat
Issues that are of concern for water supplies include aquifer depletions due to pumping exceeding recharge; contamination of surface water and groundwater; and drought related shortages for both surface water and groundwater. Potential groundwater contamination may supersede water quantity as a consideration in evaluating the amount of water available for a use (see Section 5.4.15, Wheeler).
Water development in the Red River basin has been significant. Major and minor reservoirs are present on forks and tributaries throughout the basin, altering the flow regime and water quality of riverine systems. The proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Reservoir was recommended for construction in the State Water Plan (TWDB 2002) by the Region C planning group to supply water to the North Texas Municipal Water District. The proposed reservoir site is on Bois d’Arc Creek, a tributary of the Red River entering downstream of Lake Texoma. Reallocation of hydropower storage at Lake Texoma to municipal storage and diversion may lead to modified stream flows downstream. The North Texas Municipal Water District has a major water right permit request to divert 113,000 acre-feet per year and to store 100,000 acre-feet pending at TCEQ. Export of water out of the basin may also further modify stream flows.
Most water used in the PWPA is supplied from aquifers such as the Ogallala, making aquifer depletion a potentially major constraint on water sources in the region. Depletions lower the water levels, making pumping more expensive and reducing the potential available supply. Another potential constraint to both groundwater pumping and maintenance of stream flows relates to restrictions that could be implemented due to the presence of endangered or threatened species. The Federal listing of the species like the Arkansas River shiner as threatened species has the potential to affect water resource projects as well as other activities in Hemphill, Hutchinson, Oldham, Potter, and Roberts Counties.
Threats and constraints to water supply in the PWPA are related to surface water and
groundwater sources. The actual and potential threats may be similar or unrelated for surface or groundwater. Because water use in the PWPA is primarily for agriculture, some of the constraints to use are not as severe as those for water used for human consumption. However, in most cases the same water sources are used for both agricultural and potable water supply.
Potential contamination of groundwater may be associated with oil-field practices, including seepage of brines from pits into the groundwater; brine contamination from abandoned wells; and broken or poorly constructed well casings. Agricultural and other practices may have contributed to elevated nitrates in groundwater and surface water. Surface waters in the area may also experience elevated salinity due to brines from oil-field operations, nutrients from municipal discharges, and other contaminants from industrial discharges. Other potential sources of contaminants include industrial facilities such as the Pantex plant near Amarillo; the Celanese plant at Pampa; an abandoned smelter site at Dumas; and concentrated animal feeding operations in various locations throughout the PWPA. However, most of these potential sources of contamination are regulated and monitored by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or other state agencies. Naturally occurring brine seeps also restrict the suitability of surface waters, such as Lake Meredith, for certain uses.
A federal chloride control project in the Wichita River watershed is currently being planned for completion by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) in order to reduce the chloride load entering Lake Kemp and Diversion Lake; a Record of Decision for the project has been signed. Potential impacts from this project involve changes in low flow hydrology and water quality. Resource agencies identified several concerns related to the chloride control project including: impacts to prairie stream ecosystems, impaired reservoir sport fisheries, elevated selenium concentrations and associated contaminant-based impacts, increased chance of golden algae fish kills, and impaired operations at the Dundee State Fish Hatchery. Future brush control is also an element of the chloride control project which could lead to impacts to stream habitat. Parts of the project (e.g., Truscott Brine Lake) have been in operation for two decades but other parts of the project are only partially constructed or have not been constructed. If completed and proven effective the scope of chloride control could be significantly expanded in the future to include other portions of the Red River basin; the range of impacts of a larger project could include the Pease River, Salt Fork of the Red River, Red River, and Lake Texoma.
Golden algae blooms and fish kills have occurred from Lake Pauline to the upper portion of Lake Texoma. The golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) produces toxins that kill all fish species, mussel/clam species, and gill breathing amphibians/salamanders. It is a threat to all the aquatic ecosystems. Research is needed on its distribution; bloom and toxin production dynamics; water quality affects on the alga and its toxin; possible management/treatment options for ponds and large waterbodies; interactions, population control, and affects within the plankton community (bacteria, phytoplankton, and zooplankton); and genetics of the organism and its possible strains. The need for coordination and cooperation between the various regulatory and resource agencies (local, state, and federal) is a very important need for developing research efforts and any future management plans or actions dealing with this toxic alga.
The City of Wichita Falls obtained a permit to discharge brine reject into the Wichita River from a reverse osmosis plant (desalinization). The plant is expected to be operational in Fall 2005.
Priority Research and Monitoring Efforts
Monitor species of concern—Special studies and routine monitoring should be targeted at specific species of concern. Species-specific monitoring will provide population trend data and may be particularly important for species that are federally or state listed as endangered or threatened as well as those being considered for listing or delisting.
Monitor taxonomic groups suspected to be in decline or for which little is known—Monitoring and special studies should also target particular groups of organisms that are suspected to be on the decline or for which little is known. Research across North America and Europe has documented the overall decline of mussels and amphibians. Previous synopses of fish collections indicate that prairie stream fishes have declined in abundance and distribution over time.
Ensure adequate instream flows and water quality through evaluation of chloride control projects, desalinization projects and proposed reservoirs. TPWD actively participated in the review of the environmental impact statement for the Wichita River Chloride Control Project developed by the USCOE; participation in workgroups and studies contained in the environmental operational plan will be required. TPWD studies have been planned and implemented to document changes in aquatic life and water quality due to desalinization project operations in the Wichita River. The Texas Instream Flow Program identified the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek reservoir as a second tier priority study.
Facilitate the availability of historical reports and associated data—Departmental and other publications containing biological data are not readily available and that situation inhibits the ability to document faunal changes through time in the state’s rivers and streams.
Conduct studies, monitoring programs, and activities to develop the scientific basis for assuring adequate instream flows for rivers, freshwater inflows to estuaries, and water quality with the goal of conserving the health and productivity of public waters in Texas.
Participate in development of the State Water Plan through the 16 planning regions to assure consideration of fish and wildlife resources.
Facilitate coordination of all TPWD divisions with other state and federal resource agencies to assure that water quantity and water quality needs of fish and wildlife resources are incorporated in those agencies’ activities and decision-making processes.
Review water rights and water quality permits to provide recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and participate as warranted in regulatory processes to assure that fish and wildlife conservation needs are adequately considered in those regulatory processes.
Investigate fish kills and other pollution events that adversely affect fish and wildlife resources, make use of civil restitution and role as a natural resource trustee to restore those resources, water quality, and habitat.
Continue to increase the information available to the public about conserving Texas river, streams, and springs with the goal of developing greater public support and involvement when important water resource decisions are made.