New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting & Ft. Stanton Cave Conference — Abstracts

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Geochemical fingerprinting of source water to the Snowy River deposit

Johanna M. Blake1, Christina Ferguson1 and Keely Miltenberger1

1U.S. Geological Survey, 6700 Edith Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87113, jmtblake@usgs.gov

The Snowy River deposit, located in the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave System near Capitan, New Mexico, is a unique calcite deposit within the Permian San Andres Formation. Because of its rare and delicate nature, its preservation is of great importance to cave and natural resource managers. The deposit resembles a white riverbed and has been surveyed and mapped up to 12 cave miles. The source of water to the Snowy River deposit is not known. Flooding of the Snowy River portion of the cave has been roughly correlated to large precipitation and run-off events within the local watershed. A geochemical fingerprinting approach rather than a dye tracer allowed for an understanding of the source of water without potential effects to microbial communities in the cave. Four potential sources of water to the deposit were evaluated: surface water from Eagle Creek, Little Creek, Rio Bonito, and local groundwater. Using geochemical tracers including major and trace elements, stable isotopes of water, and strontium isotopes, Eagle Creek, Rio Bonito, and local groundwater were identified as the primary sources of water to the calcite deposit. Analyses included Piper diagrams, principal component analysis, and geochemical modeling to identify unique fingerprints of the potential source waters and waters collected within the cave. However, given the length of the deposit, sources of water appear to change depending on the location in the cave. This information can help land and cave managers to identify potential sources of any adversely effected water to enter the cave.


2022 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting & Ft. Stanton Cave Conference
April 7-9, 2022, Macey Center, Socorro, NM
Online ISSN: 2834-5800

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