St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, lies in what can be considered a true maritime regime, being 600 miles (1000 kilometers) from the nearest continental landmass.
The island is composed almost entirely of volcanic rocks mantled by a thin soil seldom more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) thick. Rainfall, averaging about 40 inches (1020 millimeters) annually, has an orographic distribution related to the central ridge of the island, altitude 600 to 1500 feet (180 to 405 meters), and the easterly to northeasterly trade winds. The mineral content of bulk precipitation falling on the island is derived principally from the sea although soil dust contributes much of the calcium, sodium, and bicarbonate. Two-thirds of the sulfate in the precipitation is provided by sea salts; the remainder is derived from other sources.
The concentration of the constituents of bulk precipitation fluctuates widely month to month, but the load of the constituents shows little monthly variation. Bulk precipitation is concentrated on the land surface and in the soil zone. From there it is carried into the ground water during recharge or is removed by storm-water runoff. It is the principal source of minerals in the waters of the island.
Soil-moisture demand and evaporation limits recharge to 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50 millimeters) annually for the greater part of the island. Evapotranspiration also occurs directly from the aquifer. The salts left further increase the mineralization of the ground water. Water loss from the aquifer by evapotranspiration ranges from 40 to 80 percent of the recharge. Recharge to the aquifers and evapotranspiration of ground water determined by ratios of chloride concentrations in bulk precipitation, surface water, and subsurface water agree favorably with recharge and groundwater loss computed by other means.