The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Department of Energy and other Federal, State, and local agencies, is evaluating the hydrogeologic characteristics of the Death Valley regional ground-water flow system. The ground-water flow system covers an area of about 100,000 square kilometers from latitude 35? to 38?15' North to longitude 115? to 118? West, with the flow system proper comprising about 45,000 square kilometers. The Death Valley regional ground-water flow system is one of the larger flow systems within the Southwestern United States and includes in its boundaries the Nevada Test Site, Yucca Mountain, and much of Death Valley. Part of this study includes the construction of a three-dimensional hydrogeologic framework model to serve as the foundation for the development of a steady-state regional ground-water flow model. The digital framework model provides a computer-based description of the geometry and composition of the hydrogeologic units that control regional flow. The framework model of the region was constructed by merging two previous framework models constructed for the Yucca Mountain Project and the Environmental Restoration Program Underground Test Area studies at the Nevada Test Site.
The hydrologic characteristics of the region result from a currently arid climate and complex geology. Interbasinal regional ground-water flow occurs through a thick carbonate-rock sequence of Paleozoic age, a locally thick volcanic-rock sequence of Tertiary age, and basin-fill alluvium of Tertiary and Quaternary age. Throughout the system, deep and shallow ground-water flow may be controlled by extensive and pervasive regional and local faults and fractures.
The framework model was constructed using data from several sources to define the geometry of the regional hydrogeologic units. These data sources include (1) a 1:250,000-scale hydrogeologic-map compilation of the region; (2) regional-scale geologic cross sections; (3) borehole information, and (4) gridded surfaces from a previous three-dimensional geologic model. In addition, digital elevation model data were used in conjunction with these data to define ground-surface altitudes. These data, properly oriented in three dimensions by using geographic information systems, were combined and gridded to produce the upper surfaces of the hydrogeologic units used in the flow model. The final geometry of the framework model is constructed as a volumetric model by incorporating the intersections of these gridded surfaces and by applying fault truncation rules to structural features from the geologic map and cross sections. The cells defining the geometry of the hydrogeologic framework model can be assigned several attributes such as lithology, hydrogeologic unit, thickness, and top and bottom altitudes.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Three-dimensional hydrogeologic framework model for use with a steady-state numerical ground-water flow model of the Death Valley regional flow system, Nevada and California