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Faulting and groundwater in a desert environment: constraining hydrogeology using time-domain electromagnetic data

January 28, 2013

Within the south-western Mojave Desert, the Joshua Basin Water District is considering applying imported water into infiltration ponds in the Joshua Tree groundwater sub-basin in an attempt to artificially recharge the underlying aquifer. Scarce subsurface hydrogeological data are available near the proposed recharge site; therefore, time-domain electromagnetic (TDEM) data were collected and analysed to characterize the subsurface. TDEM soundings were acquired to estimate the depth to water on either side of the Pinto Mountain Fault, a major east-west trending strike-slip fault that transects the proposed recharge site. While TDEM is a standard technique for groundwater investigations, special care must be taken when acquiring and interpreting TDEM data in a twodimensional (2D) faulted environment. A subset of the TDEM data consistent with a layered-earth interpretation was identified through a combination of three-dimensional (3D) forward modelling and diffusion time-distance estimates. Inverse modelling indicates an offset in water table elevation of nearly 40 m across the fault. These findings imply that the fault acts as a low-permeability barrier to groundwater flow in the vicinity of the proposed recharge site. Existing production wells on the south side of the fault, together with a thick unsaturated zone and permeable near-surface deposits, suggest the southern half of the study area is suitable for artificial recharge. These results illustrate the effectiveness of targeted TDEM in support of hydrological studies in a heavily faulted desert environment where data are scarce and the cost of obtaining these data by conventional drilling techniques is prohibitive.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title Faulting and groundwater in a desert environment: constraining hydrogeology using time-domain electromagnetic data
DOI 10.3997/1873-0604.2013043
Authors Paul A. Bedrosian, Matthew K. Burgess, Tracy Nishikawa
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Near Surface Geophysics
Series Number
Index ID 70102982
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center