The Edwards aquifer in south-central Texas is one of the most productive aquifers in the Nation and is the primary source of water for the rapidly growing San Antonio area. Springs issuing from the Edwards aquifer provide habitat for several threatened and endangered species, serve as locations for recreational activities, and supply downstream users. Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs are major discharge points for the Edwards aquifer, and their discharges are used as thresholds in groundwater management strategies. Regional flow paths originating in the western part of the aquifer are generally understood to supply discharge at Comal Springs. In contrast, the hydrologic connection of San Marcos Springs with the regional Edwards aquifer flow system is less understood. During November 2008–December 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the San Antonio Water System, collected and analyzed hydrologic and geochemical data from springs, groundwater wells, and streams to gain a better understanding of the origin and characteristics of discharge at San Marcos Springs.
During the study, climatic and hydrologic conditions transitioned from exceptional drought to wetter than normal. The wide range of hydrologic conditions that occurred during this study—and corresponding changes in surface-water, groundwater and spring discharge, and in physicochemical properties and geochemistry—provides insight into the origin of the water discharging from San Marcos Springs. Three orifices at San Marcos Springs (Deep, Diversion, and Weissmuller Springs) were selected to be representative of larger springs at the spring complex.
Key findings include that discharge at San Marcos Springs was dominated by regional recharge sources and groundwater flow paths and that different orifices of San Marcos Springs respond differently to changes in hydrologic conditions; Deep Spring was less responsive to changes in hydrologic conditions than were Diversion Spring and Weissmuller Spring. Also, San Marcos Springs discharge is influenced by mixing with a component of saline groundwater.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Origin and characteristics of discharge at San Marcos Springs, south-central Texas