About 1,000 million gallons of water per day moves toward or into ground-water bodies of Kilauea Volcano from the lavas of Mauna Loa Volcano. This movement continues only to the northern boundaries of the east and southwest rift zones of Kilauea, where a substantial quantity of ground water is deflected downslope to other ground-water bodies or to the ocean. In the western part of Kilauea, the kaoiki fault system, which parallels the southwest rift zone, may be the main barrier to ground-water movement. The diversion of the ground water is manifested in the western part of Kilauea by the presence of large springs at the shore end of the Kaoiki fault system, and in the eastern part by the apparently large flow of unheated basal ground water north of the east rift zone. Thus, recharge to ground water in the rift zones of Kilauea and to the areas to the south of the rift zones may be largely by local rainfall. Recharge from rainfall for all of Kilauea is about 1,250 million gallons per day.
Beneath the upper slopes of the Kilauea rift zones, ground-water levels are 2,000 feet or more above mean sea level, or more than 1,000 feet below land surface. Ground-water levels are at these high altitudes because numerous and closely spaced dikes at depth in the upper slopes impound the ground water. In the lower slopes, because the number of dikes decreases toward the surface, the presence of a sufficient number of dikes capable of impounding ground water at altitudes substantially above sea level is unlikely. In surrounding basal ground-water reservoirs, fresh basal ground water floats on seawater and, through a transition zone of mixed freshwater and seawater, discharges into the sea.
The hydraulic conductivity of the dike-free lavas ranges from about 3,000 to about 7,000 feet per day. The conductivity in the upper slopes of the rift ranges from about 5 to 30 feet per day and that of the lower slopes of the east rift zone was calculated at about 7,000 feet per day.
The occurrence of heated basal water south of the lower east rift zone of Kilauea indicates the movement of a large quantity of geothermally heated ground water southward from the rift zone. There is little indication of similar movement of water from the upper slopes of the east rift zone, and there is no obvious movement of heated water from the lower east rift to the north because of the absence of heated ground water north of the rift zone.
A broad range in temperature and chemical composition of geothermally modified ground water indicates several different sources. Four possible sources are (1) cold meteoric water, (2) cold seawater, (3) hydrothermal fluids of meteoric origin, and (4) hydrothermally modified seawater. The chloride-ion to magnesium-ion ratio of ground water indicates whether the water has been geothermally modified. A ratio greater than 15 to 1 generally denotes geothermally modified ground water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground Water in Kilauea Volcano and Adjacent Areas of Mauna Loa Volcano, Island of Hawaii