Explaining the Thinness of Fresh Water Lenses in the Pleistocene Carbonate Aquifer on Andros Island, Bahamas

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Two hypotheses are explored to explain the thinness of the fresh water lens on Andros Island, Bahamas. The lens is an order of magnitude thinner than predicted by the Ghyben-Herzberg theory. One hypothesis previously posed in the literature is that the base of the lens is governed by the contact between the Lucayan Formation and the pre-Lucayan limestones. An alternate hypothesis, posed here, is that thinning is caused by the hydraulic influence of low-permeability paleosols in the Lucayan Formation. These hypotheses were explored, along with the influence of recharge and other factors, using a numerical model for variable-density flow and salt transport. In the layered system of grainstones/packstones and paleosols within the Lucayan Formation itself, the velocity vectors are nearly horizontal in the grainstones/packstones, and they are nearly vertical in the paleosols. These strata above the pre-Lucayan, all lower than it in permeability, draw the base of the lens upward to a position well above the contact by significantly reducing pressure within and below the strata relative to hydrostatic pressure. It is the loss of pressure across the paleosols that dramatically thins the fresh water lens, and thus the predominant hydraulic control on lens thickness arises from the existence of paleosols.



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