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Gold Open Access: This chapter is published under the terms of the CC-BY license.


Tracer testing is established as one of the best techniques for determining groundwater velocities and identifying groundwater flow directions in karstic systems. It has been employed in the Edwards (Balcones Fault Zone) Aquifer since the mid-1980s. Nontoxic, fluorescent organic dyes are most commonly used because they are comparatively inexpensive, relatively easily accessible, detectable at low concentrations, and not harmful to organisms that use or dwell in the aquifer or its springs. Tracer tests provide empirical evidence that is difficult to obtain any other way. Tracer tests have shown rapid groundwater velocities in the contributing, recharge, and artesian zones. Groundwater velocities were found to range from 915 to 9150 m/d in the Barton Springs segment of the aquifer; 1–3600 m/d in the San Marcos Springs area; 300–640 m/d near Comal Springs; 13 to >5300 m/d in San Antonio/northern Bexar County; and 1–1367 m/d in Kinney County, Texas. Tracer testing has shown: (1) preferential flow paths are conduit-dominated; (2) in places, there is a hydraulic connection with the underlying Glen Rose Formation; (3) large offsets on faults are not barriers to flow; and (4) portions of the aquifer act as separate pools.

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