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Gravity surveys for estimating possible width of enhanced porosity zones across structures on the Coconino Plateau, Coconino County, north-central Arizona

May 2, 2022

The U.S. Geological Survey completed gravity transects in 2015, 2018, and 2019 over four features: the Bright Angel Fault, Bright Angel Monocline, Tusayan Graben, and Redlands Ranch Fault Zone in the Coconino Plateau, Coconino County, Arizona, to determine if the existence and width of high porosity (low density) zones could be inferred from the resulting gravity contrasts, which could be used to update groundwater models of the region. Faults and other geological structures in the Coconino Plateau are commonly thought to play a role in the movement of groundwater in the area, but limited data exist to constrain their influence. Some groundwater models of the region have used zones of enhanced permeability and porosity along or near features to model their effect on groundwater flow but have not shown sensitivity to the width of the zones used. Enhanced porosity zones in the subsurface, such as those included along or near features in some groundwater models of the region, could create small mass deficiencies detectable by microgravity methods. However, 3 of the 4 gravity transects, the Bright Angel Fault, Bright Angel Monocline, and Tusayan Graben, showed no negative gravity anomaly over the features that could indicate the presence of a low-density zone. Only the Redlands Ranch Fault Zone that had nearby collapse features showed a negative gravity anomaly that was modeled as a zone of 0.017 increased porosity about 800 meters wide, corresponding to the relative dimension and enhanced porosity used in groundwater models of the area. This study was unable to verify the existence of enhanced porosity zones at the selected locations along the other features. However, faults and other features may affect groundwater flow in different ways at different locations, and this work does not preclude the existence of enhanced porosity zones at other places along these faults.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Gravity surveys for estimating possible width of enhanced porosity zones across structures on the Coconino Plateau, Coconino County, north-central Arizona
DOI 10.3133/sir20225031
Authors Libby M. Wildermuth
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2022-5031
Index ID sir20225031
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Arizona Water Science Center