Geochemistry of ground water associated with the Tertiary tuffs within Rainier Mesa, southern Nevada, was investigated to determine the relative importance of glass dissolution in controlling water chemistry. Water samples were obtained both from interstitial pores in core sections and from free-flowing fractures. Cation com- positions showed that calcium and magnesium decreased as a function of depth in the mesa, as sodium increased. The maximum effect occurs within alteration zones containing clinoptilolite and montmorillonite, suggesting these minerals effectively remove bivalent cations from the system.
Comparisons are made between compositions of ground waters found within Rainier Mesa that apparently have not reacted with secondary minerals and compositions of waters produced by experimental dissolution of vitric and crystalline tufts which comprise the principal aquifers in the area. The two tuff phases have the same bulk chemistry but produce aqueous solutions of different chemistry. Rapid parabolic dissolution of sodium and silica from, and the retention of, potassium within the vitric phase verify previous predictions concerning water compositions associated with vitric volcanic rocks. Parabolic dissolution of the crystalline phase results in solutions high in calcium and magnesium and low in silica. Extrapolation of the parabolic dissolution mechanism for the vitric tuff to long times successfully reproduces, at com- parable pH, cation ratios existing in Rainier Mesa ground water. Comparison of mass- transfer rates of the vitric and crystalline tuffs indicates that the apparent higher glass-surface to aqueous-volume ratio associated with the vitric rocks may account for dominance of the glass reaction.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
The effect of dissolution of volcanic glass on the water chemistry in a tuffaceous aquifer, Rainier Mesa, Nevada
Water Supply Paper
U.S. Govt. Print. Off. :
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