Abstract

Statistical models of hydrogeological heterogeneity are often used in aquifer and reservoir characterization. The number of data required to estimate objectively the spatial correlation structure of permeability, however, is often prohibitive. The objective of this study was to develop a better understanding of how information about depositional processes can be used to characterize hydrogeological heterogeneity. An outcrop of the fluvial/interfluvial Sierra Ladrones Formation of New Mexico was studied for this purpose. On the basis of previous studies of paleogeography and our own field observations, deposits of the Sierra Ladrones Formation are interpreted as marginal ancestral Rio Grande flood-plain and tributary deposits. Architectural elements were mapped over a 0.16-km2 peninsular outcrop of Pliocene-Pleistocene deposits of the central Albuquerque Basin. Geostatistical analysis of the architectural-element map data indicates non-orthogonal anisotropy in the horizontal direction. The orientations of the strongest (N30°W) and weakest (N90°E) correlation correspond to the orientation of the tributary system and the ancestral Rio Grande flood plain, respectively. In the vertical direction, the correlation structure exhibits exponential behavior corresponding to the average-element thicknesses. The results demonstrate that information about depositional environment can be used to help to quantify statistically subsurface heterogeneity.

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