Chemical analyses of waters of streams that drain the semiarid eastern slope of the southern Coast Ranges in California demonstrate that differences in the anion composition, especially in the ratio of bicarbonate to sulfate, are related chiefly to the lithologic character of the rocks exposed in the tributary drainage area. Where more than hall the drainage area of a typical eastern-slope stream is underlain by clastic marine sedimentary rocks of Jurassic and Cretaceous age, bicarbonate generally predominates over sulfate; the ratio of bicarbonate to sullate, both expressed in equivalents per million, in samples of the streams at low-flow stage ranges from 0.8 to 6. Conversely, where more than hall the drainage area is underlain by marine and continental deposits of Tertiary age and continental deposits of Quaternary age, sulfate predominates over bicarbonate, and the ratio of bicarbonate to sulfate in samples taken during the low-flow stage ranges from 0.02 to 0.7.
Organic siliceous marine shale of Tertiary age deposited in a reducing environment is probably the primary source of sullate in the region. Secondary deposits of sulfate minerals, chiefly gypsum, which are abundant in the continental deposits of late Tertiary and Quaternary age, also contribute sullate to the stream waters.
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Geologic control of mineral composition of stream waters of the eastern slope of the Southern Coast Ranges, California