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The Washita Prairie segment of the Edwards (Balcones Fault Zone) Aquifer

Joe C. Yelderman, Jr.
Joe C. Yelderman, Jr.
Department of Geosciences, Baylor University, Waco, Texas 76798, USA
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Publication history
03 March 201923 April 2019


The Washita Prairie segment of the Edwards (Balcones Fault Zone) Aquifer is a shallow unconfined aquifer that supports several historical springs, perennial streamflow to Lake Waco, and water for rural households and livestock. Secondary porosity in the aquifer is from neotectonic fractures and epikarst in the Georgetown and Edwards Formations. The fractures produce an “effective” porosity of ~1%. Thin soils allow rapid recharge, as indicated by water-level responses in wells within 24 h of rainfall events. Discharge is generally along second-order streams; topography is the dominant influence on groundwater flow direction. The interbedded clays in the Georgetown Formation create a preferred horizontal to vertical anisotropy. The fractured nature of the aquifer produces local heterogeneity, but regionally, the aquifer acts as a diffuse rather than conduit flow system. Weathering results in a layered flow system with greater effective porosity and permeability in an upper zone compared to the deeper zone. Washita Prairie springs are perennial, with discharges generally <0.05 m3/s. The groundwater is calcium bicarbonate facies with total dissolved solids (TDS) <500 mg/L in most springs and shallow-zone wells. Water quality in deeper wells is more variable, as these encounter the deeper flow system with slower circulation and higher TDS. The shallow water table and rapid recharge through fractures allow surface activities to impact water quality, and nitrate levels appear to be elevated above average background values in places. The Washita Prairie segment of the Edwards (Balcones Fault Zone) Aquifer may be able to supply over 50,000,000 m3 of sustainable water on an annual basis with continued study and proper management.

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GSA Memoirs

The Edwards Aquifer: The Past, Present, and Future of a Vital Water Resource

Geological Society of America
ISBN electronic:




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