Tectonic influences on ground water quality: insight from complementary methods

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Journal: Ground Water 2008/01/16
Published: 2008
Authors: Earman, S.;McPherson, B. J.;Phillips, F. M.;Ralser, S.;Herrin, J. M.;Broska, J.
Address: Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA. searman@dri.edu

A study using multiple techniques provided insight into tectonic influences on ground water systems; the results can help to understand ground water systems in the tectonically active western United States and other parts of the world. Ground water in the San Bernardino Valley (Arizona, United States and Sonora, Mexico) is the main source of water for domestic use, cattle ranching (the primary industry), and the preservation of threatened and endangered species. To improve the understanding of ground water occurrence, movement, and sustainability, an investigation was conducted using a number of complementary methods, including major ion geochemistry, isotope hydrology, analysis of gases dissolved in ground water, aquifer testing, geophysics, and an examination of surface and subsurface geology. By combining information from multiple lines of investigation, a more complete picture of the basin hydrogeology was assembled than would have been possible using fewer methods. The results show that the hydrogeology of the San Bernardino Valley is markedly different than that of its four neighboring basins in the United States. The differences include water quality, chemical evolution, storage, and residence time. The differences result from the locally unique geology of the San Bernardino Valley, which is due to the presence of a magmatically active accommodation zone (a zone separating two regions of normal faults with opposite dips). The geological differences and the resultant hydrological differences between the San Bernardino Valley and its neighboring basins may serve as a model for the distinctive nature of chemical evolution of ground water in other basins with locally distinct tectonic histories.

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