The investigation in Bexar County was part of a comprehensive study of a large area in south-central Texas underlain by the Edwards and associated limestones (Comanche Peak and Georgetown) of Cretaceous age. The limestones form an aquifer which supplies water to the city of San Antonio, several military installations, many industrial plants, and many irrigated farms.
The geologic formations that yield water to wells in Bexar County are sedimentary rocks of Mesozoic and Cenozoic age. The rocks strike northeastward and dip southeastward toward the Gulf of Mexico. In the northern part of the county, in an erosional remnant of the Edwards Plateau, the rocks are clearly flat and free from faulting. In the central and southern parts of the county, however, the rocks dip gulfward at gentle to moderately steep angles and are extensively faulted in the Balcones and Mexia fault zones. Individual faults or shatter zones were traced as much as 25 miles; the maximum displacement is at least 600 feet. In general, the formations are either monoclinal or slightly folded; in the western part of the county the broad Culebra anticline plunges southwestward.
Most of the large-capacity wells in Bexar County draw water from the Edwards and associated limestones, but a few draw from the Glen Rose limestone, the Austin chalk, and surficial sand and gravel. The Hosston formation, Glen Rose limestone, Buda limestone, and Austin chalk, all of Cretaceous age, generally yield small to large supplies of water; the Wilcox group and Carrizo sand of Tertiary age yield moderate supplies and alluvium of Pleistocene and Recent age generally yield small supplies.
The Edwards and associated limestones are recharged primarily by groundwater underflow into Bexar County from the west, and secondarily by seepage from streams that cross the outcrop of the aquifer in Bexar County. During the period 1934-47 the recharge to the aquifer in Bexar County is estimated to have averaged between 400,000 and 430,000 acre-feet per year.
Discharge from the aquifer takes place by means of wells and springs and by underflow into Comal and Guadalupe Counties on the northeast. During the period 1934-47 the estimated average discharge from wells and springs was about 174,000 acre-feet per year. The discharge by underflow out of the county during the same period is estimated to have averaged between 220,000 and 260.000 acre-feet per year. Probably only a small amount of water moves downdip southeast of San Antonio. The presence of highly mineralized water in that area suggests that the circulation of water is poor because of the low permeability of the aquifer.
During the period 1934-56 the discharge from the Edwards and associated limestones greatly exceeded the recharge; consequently, water levels in wells declined. The decline was greatest in the northwestern part of the county, where the water levels in wells dropped as much as 100 feet. The decline was progressively less toward the east, averaging 40 feet along the Bexar-Comal County line. The area of the greatest concentration of discharge, which includes San Antonio and extends to the southwest and northeast, coincides with the area of maximum faulting and maximum recorded yields from wells and is not the area of greatest decline. The ability of the Edwards and associated limestones to transmit and store water in the San Antonio area apparently is so great that the discharge from wells results in much smaller declines of water level than do similar or even smaller discharges in other areas.
The water from the Edwards is almost uniformly a calcium bicarbonate water of good quality, although hard. In the southern part of the San Antonio area the water is charged with hydrogen sulfide; farther downdip it becomes highly mineralized.