Abstract

We present an analysis of fault hydraulic architecture, based on >700 spatially distributed ground and geothermal spring temperature measurements taken in an active fault zone. Geostatistical simulations were used to extrapolate the measured data over an 800 × 100 m area and develop a high-resolution image of temperatures in the fault. On the basis of the modeled temperatures, a simple analytical model of convective heat transport was used to infer a probability distribution function for hydraulic conductivities in a two-dimensional plane parallel to the land surface, and the partitioning of flow between flow paths of different conductivities was calculated as a fraction of the total flux. The analysis demonstrates the existence of spatially discrete, high-permeability flow paths within the predominantly lower-permeability fault materials. Although the existence of fast-flow paths in faults has been hypothesized for >10 yr, their prevalence and contribution to the total flow of fluid in a fault zone are debated. On the basis of our findings, we conclude that the flux transmitted by an individual fast-flow path is significantly greater than that of an average flow path, but the total flux transported in fast-flow paths is a negligible fraction of the total flux transmitted by the fault.

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