The coastal plain in the Ewa area of southwestern Oahu, Hawaii, is part of a larger, nearly continuous sedimentary coastal plain along Oahu's southern coast. The coastal sediments are collectively known as caprock because they impede the free discharge of ground water from the underlying volcanic aquifers. The caprock is a layered sedimentary system consisting of interbedded marine and terrestrial sediments of both high and low permeability. Before sugarcane cultivation ended in late 1994, shallow ground water from the upper limestone unit, which is about 60 to 200 feet thick, was used primarily for irrigation of sugarcane.
A cross-sectional ground-water flow and transport model was used to evaluate the hydrogeologic controls on the regional flow system in the Ewa area. Controls considered were: (1) overall caprock hydraulic conductivity, (2) stratigraphic variations of hydraulic conductivity in the caprock, and (3) recharge. In addition, the effects of a marina excavation were evaluated.
Within the caprock, variations in hydraulic conductivity, caused by caprock stratigraphy or discontinuities of the stratigraphic units, are a major control on the direction of ground-water flow and the distribution of water levels and salinity. Model results also show that a reduction of recharge will result in increased salinity throughout the caprock with the greatest change in the upper limestone layer. In addition, the model indicates that excavation of an ocean marina will lower water levels in the upper limestone layer.
Results of cross-sectional modeling confirm the general ground-water flow pattern that would be expected in the layered sedimentary system in the Ewa caprock. Ground-water flow is: (1) predominantly upward in the low-permeability sedimentary units, and (2) predominantly horizontal in the high-permeability sedimentary units.