Fault zone architecture and related permeability structures form primary controls on fluid flow in upper-crustal, brittle fault zones. We develop qualitative and quantitative schemes for evaluating fault-related permeability structures by using results of field investigations, laboratory permeability measurements, and numerical models of flow within and near fault zones. The qualitative scheme compares the percentage of the total fault zone width composed of fault core materials (e.g., anastomosing slip surfaces, clay-rich gouge, cataclasite, and fault breccias) to the percentage of subsidiary damage zone structures (e.g., kinematically related fracture sets, small faults, and veins). A more quantitative scheme is developed to define a set of indices that characterize fault zone architecture and spatial variability. The fault core and damage zone are distinct structural and hydrogeologic units that reflect the material properties and deformation conditions within a fault zone. Whether a fault zone will act as a conduit, barrier, or combined conduit-barrier system is controlled by the relative percentage of fault core and damage zone structures and the inherent variability in grain scale and fracture permeability. This paper outlines a framework for understanding, comparing, and correlating the fluid flow properties of fault zones in various geologic settings.

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