The link between stress and hydrologic properties was examined at two sites that are distinguished by different rock types and different stress states. This investigation is based upon the analysis and interpretation of geophysical logs obtained in water wells at the two locations. At the northeast site (Newark Basin), the hydrologic characteristics of sedimentary rocks are dependent upon the relationship to the current regional stress field of two primary types of orthogonal features that serve as preferential pathways for fluid flow. Subhorizontal bedding-plane partings are highly transmissive near the surface and delineate transversely isotropic fluid flow at shallow depths. With increasing depth, the subhorizontal planes become less dominant and steeply dipping fractures become more influential hydrologically. These high-angle features define anisotropic flow pathways that are preferentially oriented along strike. At the southwest site (west Texas), extrusive rocks are subjected to topographically modified tectonic and gravitational stresses that vary spatially within a valley setting. The attendant changes in stress invariants cause fracture connectivity within the rock mass to systematically increase with depth along the valley flanks, but to remain relatively low in the central valley. The degree of fracture connectivity predicted within this valley configuration is consistent with variations in transmissivity determined at several well locations. In each of these cases, the idealized understanding of the hydrologic system is enhanced by considering the effects of regional and local stresses that act upon the fractured-rock aquifer.
Additional publication details
Effects of crustal stresses on fluid transport in fractured rock: Case studies from northeastern and southwestern USA