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Characteristics of Streams and Aquifers and Processes Affecting

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  • CHARACTERISTICS OF STREAMS AND AQUIFERS AND PROCESSES AFFECTING THE SALINITY OF WATER IN THE UPPER COLORADO RIVER BASIN, TEXAS

    By Raymond M. Slade, Jr., and Paul M. Buszka

    U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4036

    Prepared in cooperation with theCOLORADO RIVER MUNICIPAL WATER DISTRICT

    Austin, Texas 1994

  • U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

    BRUCE BABBITT, Secretary

    U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

    Gordon P. Eaton, Director

    For additional information write to: Copies of this report can be purchased from:

    U.S. Geological Survey Earth Science Information Center

    District Chief Open-File Reports Section U.S. Geological Survey Box 25286, Mail Stop 517 8011 Cameron Rd. Denver Federal Center Austin, TX 78754-3898 Denver, CO 80225-0046

  • CONTENTS

    Abstract .........................................................................................._^ 1Introduction .......................................................................................................................................................................... 2

    Purpose and Scope .................................................................................................................................................... 2Description of Study Area ........................................................................................................................................ 2

    Physiographic Setting and Climate ............................................................................................................... 4Water Use .....................................................................................................................................................^ 4

    Well-Numbering System .......................................................................................................................................... 6Acknowledgments .................................................................................................................................................... 6

    Interpretive Methods for Classification of Water Salinity ................................................................................................... 6Mineral-Solubility Analysis ..................................................................................................................................... 7Salt-Norm Analysis .................................................................................................................................................. 8Trace-Species/Chloride Ratios ................................................................................................................................. 8

    Characteristics of Streams .................................................................................................................................................... 9Streamflow ..........................................................................................................................................................^ 9Dissolved-Solids Concentrations and Loads ............................................................................................................ 14Gains and Losses of Streamflow .............................................................................................................................. 18

    Colorado River .............................................................................................................................................. 19Beals Creek, Elm Creek, and the Concho River ........................................................................................... 19

    Salinity of Streamflow .............................................................................................................................................. 23Historical Changes in Salinity ....................................................................................................................... 23Principal Sources of Dissolved Solids .......................................................................................................... 25Effects of Diversions ..................................................................................................................................... 25

    Characteristics of Aquifers .................................................................................................................................................. 28Geologic Framework ................................................................................................................................................ 29Shallow Aquifers ...................................................................................................................................................... 29

    Water Levels .................................................................................................................................................. 30Salinity of Ground Water .............................................................................................................................. 30Principal Sources of Dissolved Solids .......................................................................................................... 32

    Deep Aquifers ........................................................................................................................................................... 37Potemiometric Surfaces ................................................................................................................................ 37Chemical Characteristics............................................................................................................................... 38

    Processes Affecting the Salinity of Water ............................................................................................................................ 41Evapotranspiration .................................................................................................................................................... 41Dissolution of Minerals ............................................................................................................................................ 43Mixing with Brines ................................................................................................................................................... 43

    Natural Discharge.......................................................................................................................................... 45Leakage Through Wells and Boreholes ........................................................................................................ 46Disposal of Brines Associated With Oil and Gas Production ....................................................................... 48

    Pits ......................................................... 48Disposal Wells ................................................................................................................................... 50Secondary-Recovery Wells ................................................................................................................ 50

    Ground-Water Discharge Through Saline Soils ....................................................................................................... 51Relation of Salinity Classification to Oil and Gas Production .............................................. A ............................................. 53Summary ...................................................................................................................................................^ 54Selected References ............................................................................................................................................................^ 56

    CONTENTS ill

  • PLATES

    [Plates are in pocket]

    1-6. Maps showing:1. Location of streamflow-study sites, wells, and springs sampled for water quality in the upper

    Colorado River Basin, Texas.2. Generalized surface geology in the upper Colorado River Basin, Texas.3. Water-level altitude in the upper Colorado River Basin, Texas, 1986.4. Depth to water in inventoried wells and springs in the upper Colorado River Basin, Texas, 1986.5. Specific conductance of water in wells and springs in the upper Colorado River Basin, Texas, 1986.6. Major oil and gas fields and the deep aquifers from which production originates in the upper

    Colorado River Basin, Texas.

    ILLUSTRATIONS

    1. Map showing location and extent of the study area ............................................................................................. 32. Diagram showing county water use by categories, 1985 ..................................................................................... 53. Graph showing guide to interpreting sources of chloride in water using ideal linear mixing curves

    based on bromide/chloride ratios and chloride concentrations ............................................................................ 104. Graph showing water analyses used to define lower and upper limits for ideal mixing curves

    based on bromide/chloride weight ratios and chloride concentrations ................................................................ 115-7. Maps showing:

    5. Mean-annual precipitation and streamflow, median streamflow, and mean-annual runoff,1969-86 ............................................................... 12

    6. Mean-daily dissolved-solids loads, discharge-weighted mean dissolved-solids concen- trations, mean-daily dissolved-solids yields, and discharge-weighted mean chloride concentrations, 1969-86..............................................................................................

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