Hydrogeology of Desert Springs in the Panamint Range, California, USA: Geologic Controls on the Geochemical Kinetics, Flowpaths and Mean Residence Times of Springs

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Hydrological Processes

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Over 180 springs emerge in the Panamint Range near Death Valley National Park, CA, yet, these springs have received very little hydrogeological attention despite their cultural, historical, and ecological importance. Here, we address the following questions: (1) which rock units support groundwater flow to springs in the Panamint Range, (2) what are the geochemical kinetics of these aquifers, and (3) and what are the residence times of these springs? All springs are at least partly supported by recharge in and flow through dolomitic units, namely, the Noonday Dolomite, Kingston Peak Formation, and Johnnie Formation. Thus, the geochemical composition of springs can largely be explained by dedolomitization: the dissolution of dolomite and gypsum with concurrent precipitation of calcite. However, interactions with hydrothermal deposits have likely influenced the geochemical composition of Thorndike Spring, Uppermost Spring, Hanaupah Canyon springs, and Trail Canyon springs. Faults are important controls on spring emergence. Seventeen of twenty‐one sampled springs emerge at faults (13 emerge at low‐angle detachment faults). On the eastern side of the Panamint Range, springs emerge where low‐angle faults intersect nearly vertical Late Proterozoic, Cambrian, and Ordovician sedimentary units. These geologic units are not present on the western side of the Panamint Range. Instead, springs on the west side emerge where low‐angle faults intersect Cenozoic breccias and fanglomerates. Mean residence times of springs range from 65 (±30) to 1,829 (±613) years. A total of 11 springs have relatively short mean residence times less than 500 years, whereas seven springs have mean residence times greater than 1,000 years. We infer that the Panamint Range springs are extremely vulnerable to climate change due to their dependence on local recharge, disconnection from regional groundwater flow (Death Valley Regional Flow System ‐ DVRFS), and relatively short mean residence times as compared with springs that are supported by the DVRFS (e.g., springs in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge). In fact, four springs were not flowing during this campaign, yet they were flowing in the 1990s and 2000s.


Crenobiontic; Death Valley; Desert Springs; Fault hydrogeology; Geochemical kinetics; Panamint Range; Residence times; Spring vulnerability


Hydrology | Water Resource Management



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