Geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Texas

Scientific Investigations Map 3366
Prepared in cooperation with the Edwards Aquifer Authority
By: , and 

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Abstract

During 2014–16, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Edwards Aquifer Authority, documented the geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Texas. The Edwards and Trinity aquifers are major sources of water for agriculture, industry, and urban and rural communities in south-central Texas. Both the Edwards and Trinity are classified as major aquifers by the State of Texas.

The purpose of this report is to present the geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Tex. The report includes a detailed 1:24,000-scale hydrostratigraphic map, names, and descriptions of the geology and hydrostratigraphic units (HSUs) in the study area.

The scope of the report is focused on geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the outcrops and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Tex. In addition, parts of the adjacent upper confining unit to the Edwards aquifer are included.

The study area, approximately 866 square miles, is within the outcrops of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers and overlying confining units (Washita, Eagle Ford, Austin, and Taylor Groups) in northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Tex. The rocks within the study area are sedimentary and range in age from Early to Late Cretaceous. The Miocene-age Balcones fault zone is the primary structural feature within the study area. The fault zone is an extensional system of faults that generally trends southwest to northeast in south-central Texas. The faults have normal throw, are en echelon, and are mostly downthrown to the southeast.

The Early Cretaceous Edwards Group rocks were deposited in an open marine to supratidal flats environment during two marine transgressions. The Edwards Group is composed of the Kainer and Person Formations. Following tectonic uplift, subaerial exposure, and erosion near the end of Early Cretaceous time, the area of present-day south-central Texas was again submerged during the Late Cretaceous by a marine transgression resulting in deposition of the Georgetown Formation of the Washita Group.

The Early Cretaceous Edwards Group, which overlies the Trinity Group, is composed of mudstone to boundstone, dolomitic limestone, argillaceous limestone, evaporite, shale, and chert. The Kainer Formation is subdivided into (bottom to top) the basal nodular, dolomitic, Kirschberg Evaporite, and grainstone members. The Person Formation is subdivided into (bottom to top) the regional dense, leached and collapsed (undivided), and cyclic and marine (undivided) members.

Hydrostratigraphically the rocks exposed in the study area represent a section of the upper confining unit to the Edwards aquifer, the Edwards aquifer, the upper zone of the Trinity aquifer, and the middle zone of the Trinity aquifer. The Pecan Gap Formation (Taylor Group), Austin Group, Eagle Ford Group, Buda Limestone, and Del Rio Clay are generally considered to be the upper confining unit to the Edwards aquifer.

The Edwards aquifer was subdivided into HSUs I to VIII. The Georgetown Formation of the Washita Group contains HSU I. The Person Formation of the Edwards Group contains HSUs II (cyclic and marine members [Kpcm], undivided), III (leached and collapsed members [Kplc,] undivided), and IV (regional dense member [Kprd]), and the Kainer Formation of the Edwards Group contains HSUs V (grainstone member [Kkg]), VI (Kirschberg Evaporite Member [Kkke]), VII (dolomitic member [Kkd]), and VIII (basal nodular member [Kkbn]).

The Trinity aquifer is separated into upper, middle, and lower aquifer units (hereinafter referred to as “zones”). The upper zone of the Trinity aquifer is in the upper member of the Glen Rose Limestone. The middle zone of the Trinity aquifer is formed in the lower member of the Glen Rose Limestone, Hensell Sand, and Cow Creek Limestone. The regionally extensive Hammett Shale forms a confining unit between the middle and lower zones of the Trinity aquifer. The lower zone of the Trinity aquifer consists of the Sligo and Hosston Formations, which do not crop out in the study area.

The upper zone of the Trinity aquifer is subdivided into five informal HSUs (top to bottom): cavernous, Camp Bullis, upper evaporite, fossiliferous, and lower evaporite. The middle zone of the Trinity aquifer is composed of the (top to bottom) Bulverde, Little Blanco, Twin Sisters, Doeppenschmidt, Rust, Honey Creek, Hensell, and Cow Creek HSUs. The underlying Hammett HSU is a regional confining unit between the middle and lower zones of the Trinity aquifer. The lower zone of the Trinity aquifer is not exposed in the study area.

Groundwater recharge and flow paths in the study area are influenced not only by the hydrostratigraphic characteristics of the individual HSUs but also by faults and fractures and geologic structure. Faulting associated with the Balcones fault zone (1) might affect groundwater flow paths by forming a barrier to flow that results in water moving parallel to the fault plane, (2) might affect groundwater flow paths by increasing flow across the fault because of fracturing and juxtaposing porous and permeable units, or (3) might have no effect on the groundwater flow paths.

The hydrologic connection between the Edwards and Trinity aquifers and the various HSUs is complex. The complexity of the aquifer system is a combination of the original depositional history, bioturbation, primary and secondary porosity, diagenesis, and fracturing of the area from faulting. All of these factors have resulted in development of modified porosity, permeability, and transmissivity within and between the aquifers. Faulting produced highly fractured areas that have allowed for rapid infiltration of water and subsequently formed solutionally enhanced fractures, bedding planes, channels, and caves that are highly permeable and transmissive. The juxtaposition resulting from faulting has resulted in areas of interconnectedness between the Edwards and Trinity aquifers and the various HSUs that form the aquifers.

Suggested Citation

Clark, A.K., Golab, J.A., and Morris, R.R., 2016, Geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3366, 1 sheet, scale 1:24,000, pamphlet, https://doi.org/10.3133/sim3366.

ISSN: 2329-132X (online)

ISSN: 2329-1311 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Geologic Framework
  • Hydrostratigraphy
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geologic framework and hydrostratigraphy of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers within northern Bexar and Comal Counties, Texas
Series title Scientific Investigations Map
Series number 3366
DOI 10.3133/sim3366
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Texas Water Science Center
Description Pamphlet: vi, 20 p.; Sheet: 48.00 x 36.00 inches; Appendix 1
Country United States
State Texas
County Comal County, Bexar County
Other Geospatial Edwards Aquifer, Trinity Aquifer
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y