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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) News

Southwest Research Institute launches intensive Edwards Aquifer study

San Antonio, Texas -- November 17, 2000 -- A team of scientists from Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has launched an interdisciplinary effort to better understand the hydrologic characteristics of the Edwards Aquifer.

The Edwards Aquifer, a highly fractured limestone formation lying beneath a large portion of south-central Texas, serves as the drinking water supply for more than 1 million people in San Antonio and surrounding communities.

The SwRI initiative combines analytical tools and expertise developed over more than a dozen years by hydrologists, geologists, geochemists, and geophysicists at the Institute working on projects related to characterization of aquifers and analysis of groundwater flow and transport.

The SwRI team, led by hydrologist Dr. Ronald Green, has targeted specific aspects of the Edwards Aquifer for investigation. To date, three projects are underway:

  • Dr. Charles Connor, an Institute geophysicist, leads an SwRI-funded*, four-month project to evaluate the use of integrated geophysical surveys to characterize the Edwards Aquifer. Much of what is currently known about the subsurface has been interpreted from well logs and road cuts. Magnetic, transient electromagnetic, and electrical resistivity surveys will be performed as part of the demonstration project.

  • Dr. David Ferrill, a structural geologist, is leading another SwRI-funded* study that will evaluate the effects of geologic structural features on recharge into and flow through the aquifer. This one-year study will use the SwRI-developed 3D-Stress™ computer program, which analyzes the tendency of faults and fractures to slip or dilate. 
     

  • Dr. Scott Painter, a physicist at the Institute, heads a team conducting a two-year, $130,000 parameter estimation investigation. That project, jointly funded by the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will provide a basis for more accurately estimating how water moves through the aquifer's honeycombed limestone in areas where well logs or other exploration data are lacking. It will provide an improved data base for a groundwater management model under development for the EAA by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology.

Combined data from all three SwRI studies will help ensure that the model accurately represents groundwater flow through the aquifer. The studies will be integrated with additional research by the EAA, San Antonio Water System, USGS, Texas Water Development Board, and the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology.

Results from Edwards-related projects funded by SwRI could also be applied to aquifers elsewhere, according to Green.

For more information about the Edwards Aquifer study, contact Joe Fohn, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas, 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-4630, Fax (210) 522-3547.

*SwRI invests $3 million annually in internal research to develop, test, or boost new technologies. 

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