Hydrogeologic factors that affect the flowpath of water in selected zones of the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio region, Texas

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4046

Prepared in cooperation with the San Antonio Water System



The Edwards aquifer in the San Antonio region supplies drinking water for more than 1 million people. Proper development and protection of the aquifer is a high priority for local and State authorities. To better understand the flow of water in two major flowpaths in the Edwards aquifer, stratigraphic, structural, hydrologic, and geochemical data were analyzed. The western Medina flowpath is in parts of Uvalde, Medina, and Bexar Counties, and the eastern flowpath is in northern Bexar and central Comal Counties.

A major hydrogeologic factor that affects the pattern of flow in the Edwards aquifer is the spatial and temporal distribution of recharge. Other hydrogeologic factors that affect flowpaths include internal boundaries and the location and rate of spring discharge. The relative displacement of faults and the high permeability layers have substantial control on the discharge at springs and on the flowpaths in the Edwards aquifer.

Analysis of the estimated recharge to the Edwards aquifer during 1982 89 indicated that during years of substantial precipitation, a large part of the net recharge probably is diffuse infiltration of precipitation over large parts of the recharge area. During years with below-normal precipitation, most recharge is leakage from rivers and streams that drain the catchment subbasins.

In the western Medina flowpath, concentrations of major ions indicate saturation of calcite and undersaturation of dolomite the two minerals that constitute most of the Edwards aquifer matrix. Concentrations of dissolved calcium, alkalinity, and dissolved chloride in the eastern flowpath are greater than those in the western Medina flowpath. These upward trends in concentrations might result in part from: (1) increased development in the recharge area, (2) mineralized effluent from developed areas, or (3) increased dissolution of aquifer material.

Tritium data from wells sampled in and near the western Medina flowpath indicate no vertical stratification of flow. Tritium concentrations in the recharge area of the western Medina flowpath are smaller than would be expected from previous studies and for the amount of recharge the area presumably received since 1952.

Stable-isotopic data indicate that the water in the Edwards aquifer is meteoric and, except in one known area, has not been subjected to substantial evaporation or other isotope-fractionating processes. Evaporation of water from Medina Lake results in a heavier stable-isotopic ratio in lake water, which subsequently recharges the Edwards aquifer. The stable-isotopic data indicate that lake water does not enter either of the two flowpaths.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeologic factors that affect the flowpath of water in selected zones of the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio region, Texas
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Austin, TX
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
vi, 73 p..
United States
Other Geospatial:
Edwards Aquifer