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Monitoring of Selected Water-Quality Constituents Near the Freshwater/Saline-Water Interface of the Edwards Aquifer, July 1996-December 1997

February 1, 1999

The Edwards aquifer is the sole source of water for about 1.3 million people in and near San Antonio, Texas, as well as for ranchers and farmers throughout south-central Texas. Because of the demand for this resource, various studies have been conducted to better understand the Edwards aquifer and how the aquifer reacts to environmental changes and human influences. In July 1996, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center (EARDC) at Southwest Texas State University (SWTSU) and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), began a study to investigate possible changes in water quality of the Edwards aquifer near the freshwater/saline-water interface that might result if drought occurs. The continuing study is part of the USGS National WaterQuality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in south-central Texas. The freshwater/saline-water interface, known locally as the “bad-water line,” marks the beginning of the transition in the aquifer from freshwater (updip) to saline water (downdip). The interface is defined as the 1,000-milligram-per-liter (mg/L) line of equal dissolved solids concentration as delineated by Maclay and others (1980, fig. 7). Water in the freshwater zone of the Edwards aquifer tends to have dissolved solids concentrations of 250 to 300 mg/L (Pavlicek and others, 1987, p. 3). In contrast, water in the saline-water zone of the Edwards aquifer commonly has dissolved solids concentrations greater than 10,000 mg/L, and sample concentrations as large as 232,000 mg/L have been measured (Groschen and Buszka, 1997, p. 21).