Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Geological Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


John S. Gierke


Climate change, intensive use, and population growth are threatening the availability of water resources. New sources of water, better knowledge of existing ones, and improved water management strategies are of paramount importance. Ground water is often considered as primary water source due to its advantages in terms of quantity, spatial distribution, and natural quality. Remote sensing techniques afford scientists a unique opportunity to characterize landscapes in order to assess groundwater resources, particularly in tectonically influenced areas. Aquifers in volcanic basins are considered the most productive aquifers in Latin America. Although topography is considered the primary driving force for groundwater flows in mountainous terrains, tectonic activity increases the complexity of these groundwater systems by altering the integrity of sedimentary rock units and the overlying drainage networks. Structural controls affect the primary hydraulic properties of the rock formations by developing barriers to flow in some cases and zones of preferential infiltration and subterranean in others. The study area focuses on the Quito Aquifer System (QAS) in Ecuador. The characterization of the hydrogeology started with a lineament analysis based on a combined remote sensing and digital terrain analysis approach. The application of classical tools for regional hydrogeological evaluation and shallow geophysical methods were useful to evaluate the impact of faulting and fracturing on the aquifer system. Given the spatial extension of the area and the complexity of the system, two levels of analysis were applied in this study. At the regional level, a lineament map was created for the QAS. Relationships between fractures, faults and lineaments and the configuration of the groundwater flow on the QAS were determined. At the local level, on the Plateaus region of the QAS, a detailed lineament map was obtained by using high-spatial-resolution satellite imagery and aspect map derived from a digital elevation model (DEM). This map was complemented by the analysis of morphotectonic indicators and shallow geophysics that characterize fracture patterns. The development of the groundwater flow system was studied, drawing upon data pertaining to the aquifer system physical characteristics and topography. Hydrochemistry was used to ascertain the groundwater evolution and verify the correspondence of the flow patterns proposed in the flow system analysis. Isotopic analysis was employed to verify the origin of groundwater. The results of this study show that tectonism plays a very important role for the hydrology of the QAS. The results also demonstrate that faults influence a great deal of the topographic characteristics of the QAS and subsequently the configuration of the groundwater flow. Moreover, for the Plateaus region, the results demonstrate that the aquifer flow systems are affected by secondary porosity. This is a new conceptualization of the functioning of the aquifers on the QAS that will significantly contribute to the development of better strategies for the management of this important water resource.

Included in

Hydrology Commons