Preliminary report on geology and ground water of the Pajaro Valley area, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, California

Open-File Report 73-199




The Pajaro Valley area, California, covering about 120 square miles, extends from the southern part of Santa Cruz County to several miles south of the county line into Monterey County. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Santa Cruz Mountains on the east. The city of Watsonville is the largest center of population. Deposits that range in age from Pliocene to Holocene make up the ground-water reservoir. These include, from oldest to youngest, the Purisima Formation, Aromas Red Sands of Allen (1946), terrace deposits, alluvium, and dune sand. These deposits underlie an area of about 80 square miles and have a maximum thickness of about 4,000 feet. The alluvium yields most of the water pumped from wells in the area. Pre-Pliocene rocks underlie and form the boundaries of the ground-water reservoir. These rocks contain ground water in fractures and in sandstone beds. However, they are not an important source of ground water. There is close continuity between the geology of the Pajaro Valley area and that of the Soquel-Aptos area, which is contiguous on the north. Ground water in the Pajaro Valley area is derived from three sources: (1) Precipitation within the Pajaro Valley area that reaches the ground-water body by direct infiltration or by seepage from streams, (2) seepage from the Pajaro River as it crosses the Pajaro Valley carrying runoff which originates upstream from the valley, and (3) precipitation in the Soquel-Aptos area that infiltrates and then moves southeastward at depth into the Pajaro Valley area. Ground water in most wells in the Pajaro Valley area occurs under confined (artesian) conditions; the only exception is ground water in the upper, near-surface part of the alluvium and that in the dune sand. It moves south from the north part of the area and southwest away from the San Andreas fault toward and out under Monterey Bay. In the south part of the area, ground-water movement is almost due west. The San Andreas fault probably is the only fault that has a restrictive effect on the movement of ground water. Water levels in wells in the Pajaro Valley area in 1970 averaged about 2 feet lower than that in 1950. Ground-water pumpage averaged 46,100 acre-feet per year during the period 1963 through 1969. There are two distinct ground-water quality zones in the Pajaro Valley area: a shallow, semiperched zone of poor-quality water and a deeper, confined zone of good quality-water. Also, sea-water intrusion has occurred in limited areas near the mouth of the Pajaro River and in the vicinity of McClusky Slough. The channel of the Pajaro River near Aromas and the beds of streams that drain the area north and northeast of Watsonville have the greatest potential for artificial recharge by surface infiltration of water. The gravel at the base of the alluvium is the best zone for injection of water through wells.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary report on geology and ground water of the Pajaro Valley area, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, California
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
80 p. ill., maps ; 27 cm.