Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Groundwater ages from the freshwater zone of the Edwards aquifer, Uvalde County, Texas—Insights into groundwater flow and recharge

February 23, 2016

Tritium–helium-3 groundwater ages of the Edwards aquifer in south-central Texas were determined as part of a long-term study of groundwater flow and recharge in the Edwards and Trinity aquifers. These ages help to define groundwater residence times and to provide constraints for calibration of groundwater flow models. A suite of 17 samples from public and private supply wells within Uvalde County were collected for active and noble gases, and for tritium–helium-3 analyses from the confined and unconfined parts of the Edwards aquifer. Samples were collected from monitoring wells at discrete depths in open boreholes as well as from integrated pumped well-head samples. The data indicate a fairly uniform groundwater flow system within an otherwise structurally complex geologic environment comprised of regionally and locally faulted rock units, igneous intrusions, and karst features within carbonate rocks. Apparent ages show moderate, downward average, linear velocities in the Uvalde area with increasing age to the east along a regional groundwater flow path. Though the apparent age data show a fairly consistent distribution across the study area, many apparent ages indicate mixing of both modern (less than 60 years) and premodern (greater than 60 years) waters. This mixing is most evident along the “bad water” line, an arbitrary delineation of 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids that separates the freshwater zone of the Edwards aquifer from the downdip saline water zone. Mixing of modern and premodern waters also is indicated within the unconfined zone of the aquifer by high excess helium concentrations in young waters. Excess helium anomalies in the unconfined aquifer are consistent with possible subsurface discharge of premodern groundwater from the underlying Trinity aquifer into the younger groundwater of the Edwards aquifer.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Groundwater ages from the freshwater zone of the Edwards aquifer, Uvalde County, Texas—Insights into groundwater flow and recharge
DOI 10.3133/sir20155163
Authors Andrew G. Hunt, Gary P. Landis, Jason R. Faith
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2015-5163
Index ID sir20155163
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center