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Delineation of ground‐water flow systems in the southern Great Basin using aqueous rare earth element distributions

Kevin H. Johannesson, Klaus J. Stetzenbach, Vernon F. Hodge, David K. Kreamer, Xiaoping Zhou | January 1, 1997
Summary

The rare earth element (REE) signature of ground waters from both felsic volcanic rocks on the Nevada Test Site and from the regional Paleozoic carbonate aquifer of southern Nevada resemble the REE signature of the rocks through which they flow. Moreover, the REE signatures of Ash Meadows ground waters are similar to those of springs in the Furnace Creek region of Death Valley but different from shallow ground waters from predominantly tuffaceous alluvial deposits in the Amargosa Desert, perched ground waters from felsic volcanic rocks, and ground waters that have only flowed through the regional Paleozoic carbonate aquifer. The similar REE patterns of Ash Meadows and Furnace Creek ground waters support previous investigations that suggested ground waters discharging from the Furnace Creek springs are similar to the ground waters emerging from the Ash Meadows springs. The REE patterns indicate that the contribution of ground water from the Amargosa Desert to the Furnace Creek springs is of minor importance. Our REE analyses along with previous stable isotope, ground‐water potentiometric surface relationships, and geologic structure analyses support ground‐water flow from east to west in the fractured and faulted carbonate rocks beneath Ash Meadows, the Amargosa Desert, and the southern end of the Funeral Mountains. Our observations are contrary to some previous investigations that identified shallow ground waters from the central and northwestern Amargosa Desert as a substantial component of the ground water that discharges from the Furnace Creek springs.

Description

The rare earth element (REE) signature of ground waters from both felsic volcanic rocks on the Nevada Test Site and from the regional Paleozoic carbonate aquifer of southern Nevada resemble the REE signature of the rocks through which they flow. Moreover, the REE signatures of Ash Meadows ground waters are similar to those of springs in the Furnace Creek region of Death Valley but different from shallow ground waters from predominantly tuffaceous alluvial deposits in the Amargosa Desert, perched ground waters from felsic volcanic rocks, and ground waters that have only flowed through the regional Paleozoic carbonate aquifer. The similar REE patterns of Ash Meadows and Furnace Creek ground waters support previous investigations that suggested ground waters discharging from the Furnace Creek springs are similar to the ground waters emerging from the Ash Meadows springs. The REE patterns indicate that the contribution of ground water from the Amargosa Desert to the Furnace Creek springs is of minor importance. Our REE analyses along with previous stable isotope, ground‐water potentiometric surface relationships, and geologic structure analyses support ground‐water flow from east to west in the fractured and faulted carbonate rocks beneath Ash Meadows, the Amargosa Desert, and the southern end of the Funeral Mountains. Our observations are contrary to some previous investigations that identified shallow ground waters from the central and northwestern Amargosa Desert as a substantial component of the ground water that discharges from the Furnace Creek springs.

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NGWA-GB-REE-Sig

Keywords:

basin characterization, Great Basin Aquifer, Groundwater Exchange, interbasin flow, transboundary aquifers