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Journal Articles Earth-Science Reviews Year : 2013

Fault zone hydrogeology


Deformation along faults in the shallow crust (b1 km) introduces permeability heterogeneity and anisotropy, which has an important impact on processes such as regional groundwater flow, hydrocarbon migration, and hydrothermal fluid circulation. Fault zones have the capacity to be hydraulic conduits connecting shallowand deep geological environments, but simultaneously the fault cores of many faults often form effective barriers to flow. The direct evaluation of the impact of faults to fluid flow patterns remains a challenge and requires a multidisciplinary research effort of structural geologists and hydrogeologists. However,we find that these disciplines often use different methods with little interaction between them. In this review, we document the current multidisciplinary understanding of fault zone hydrogeology.We discuss surface- and subsurface observations fromdiverse rock types from unlithified and lithified clastic sediments through to carbonate, crystalline, and volcanic rocks. For each rock type,we evaluate geological deformationmechanisms, hydrogeologic observations and conceptualmodels of fault zone hydrogeology. Outcrop observations indicate that fault zones commonly have a permeability structure suggesting they should act as complex conduit-barrier systems in which along-fault flow is encouraged and across-fault flow is impeded. Hydrogeological observations of fault zones reported in the literature show a broad qualitative agreement with outcrop-based conceptual models of fault zone hydrogeology. Nevertheless, the specific impact of a particular fault permeability structure on fault zone hydrogeology can only be assessed when the hydrogeological context of the fault zone is considered and not from outcrop observations alone. To gain a more integrated, comprehensive understanding of fault zone hydrogeology, we foresee numerous synergistic opportunities and challenges for the discipline of structural geology and hydrogeology to co-evolve and address remaining challenges by co-locating study areas, sharing approaches and fusing data, developing conceptual models from hydrogeologic data, numerical modeling, and training interdisciplinary scientists.


Earth Sciences
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Dates and versions

insu-00935069 , version 1 (23-01-2014)



V. F. Bense, D. Gleeson, S.E. Loveless, Olivier Bour, J. Scibek. Fault zone hydrogeology. Earth-Science Reviews, 2013, 127, pp.171-192. ⟨10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.09.008⟩. ⟨insu-00935069⟩
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