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A conceptual model of the hydrogeologic framework, geochemistry, and groundwater-flow system of the Edwards-Trinity and related aquifers in the Pecos County region, Texas

June 29, 2012

A conceptual model of the hydrogeologic framework, geochemistry, and groundwater-flow system of the Edwards-Trinity and related aquifers, which include the Pecos Valley, Igneous, Dockum, Rustler, and Capitan Reef aquifers, was developed as the second phase of a groundwater availability study in the Pecos County region in west Texas. The first phase of the study was to collect and compile groundwater, surface-water, water-quality, geophysical, and geologic data in the area. The third phase of the study involves a numerical groundwater-flow model of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer in order to simulate groundwater conditions based on various groundwater-withdrawal scenarios. Resource managers plan to use the results of the study to establish management strategies for the groundwater system. The hydrogeologic framework is composed of the hydrostratigraphy, structural features, and hydraulic properties of the groundwater system. Well and geophysical logs were interpreted to define the top and base surfaces of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer units. Elevations of the top and base of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer generally decrease from the southwestern part of the study area to the northeast. The thicknesses of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer units were calculated using the interpolated top and base surfaces of the hydrostratigraphic units. Some of the thinnest sections of the aquifer were in the eastern part of the study area and some of the thickest sections were in the Pecos, Monument Draw, and Belding-Coyanosa trough areas. Normal-fault zones, which formed as growth and collapse features as sediments were deposited along the margins of more resistant rocks and as overlying sediments collapsed into the voids created by the dissolution of Permian-age evaporite deposits, were delineated based on the interpretation of hydrostratigraphic cross sections. The lowest aquifer transmissivity values were measured in the eastern part of the study area; the highest transmissivity values were measured in a faulted area of the Monument Draw trough. Hydraulic conductivity values generally exhibited the same trends as the transmissivity values. Groundwater-quality data and groundwater-level data were used in context with the hydrogeologic framework to assess the chemical characteristics of water from different sources, regional groundwater-flow paths, recharge sources, the mixing of water from different sources, and discharge in the study area. Groundwater-level altitudes generally decrease from southwest to northeast and regional groundwater flow is from areas of recharge south and west to the north and northeast. Four principal sources of recharge to the Edwards-Trinity aquifer were identified: (1) regional flow that originated as recharge northwest of the study area, (2) runoff from the Barilla, Davis, and Glass Mountains, (3) return flow from irrigation, and (4) upwelling from deeper aquifers. Results indicated Edwards-Trinity aquifer water in the study area was dominated by mineralized, regional groundwater flow that most likely recharged during the cooler, wetter climates of the Pleistocene with variable contributions of recent, local recharge. Groundwater generally flows into the down-dip extent of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer where it discharges into overlying or underlying aquifer units, discharges from springs, discharges to the Pecos River, follows a regional flow path east out of the study area, or is withdrawn by groundwater wells. Structural features such as mountains, troughs, and faults play a substantial role in the distribution of recharge, local and regional groundwater flow, spring discharge, and aquifer interaction.