Santa Rosa and San Simeon Creeks are underlain by thin, narrow ground-water basins that supply nearly all water used for local agricultural and municipal purposes. The creeks discharge to the Pacific Ocean near the northwestern corner of San Luis Obispo County, California. The basins contain heterogeneous, unconsolidated alluvial deposits and are underlain by relatively impermeable bedrock. Both creeks usually stop flowing during the summer dry season, and most of the pumpage during that time is derived from ground-water storage. Annual pumpage increased substantially during 1956?88 and is now a large fraction of basin storage capacity. Consequently, dry-season water levels are lower and the water supply is more vulnerable to drought.
The creeks are the largest source of ground-water recharge, and complete basin recharge can occur within the first few weeks of winter streamflow. Agricultural and municipal pumpages are the largest outflows and cause dry-season water-level declines throughout the San Simeon Basin. Pumping effects are more localized in the Santa Rosa Basin because of subsurface flow obstructions. Even without pumpage, a large quantity of water naturally drains out of storage at the upper ends of the basins during the dry season.
Ground water is more saline in areas close to the coast than in inland areas. Although seawater intrusion has occurred in the past, it probably was not the cause of high salinity in 1988?89. Ground water is very hard, and concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, iron, and manganese exceed drinking-water standards in some locations.
Probability distributions of streamflow were estimated indirectly from a 120-year rainfall record because the periods of record for local stream-gaging stations were wetter than average. Dry-season durations with recurrence intervals between 5 and 43 years are likely to dry up some wells but not cause seawater intrusion. A winter with no streamflow is likely to occur about every 32 years and to result in numerous dry wells, seawater intrusion, and subsidence.
Digital ground-water-flow models were used to estimate several items in the ground-water budgets and to investigate the effects of pumpage and drought. The models also were used to investigate the hydrologic effects of selected water-resources management alternatives. Selection of alternatives was not constrained by issues related to water rights, which were under dispute during the study. Increases in the area and intensity of irrigation could increase agricultural water demand by 26 to 35 percent, an increase that would lower water levels by as much as 10 feet and possibly cause subsidence in the lower Santa Rosa Basin. An additional municipal well in the lower Santa Rosa Basin could withdraw 100 acre-feet per year without causing seawater intrusion, but subsidence might occur. Transferring 270 acre-feet per year of treated wastewater from a percolation area near the coast to an area about 0.5 mile upstream of the municipal well field in the San Simeon Basin could raise upstream water levels by as much as 12 feet without causing significant water-table mounding or seawater intrusion. Decreases in agricultural pumping after a winter without streamflow could prevent seawater intrusion while allowing municipal pumping to continue at normal rates.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology, water quality, water budgets, and simulated responses to hydrologic changes in Santa Rosa and San Simeon Creek ground-water basins, San Luis Obispo County, California
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
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