Chemical and geohydrologic data were used to assess the effects of regional ground-water flow on the quality of on-farm drainflows in a part of the western San Joaquin Valley, California. Shallow ground water beneath farm fields has been enriched in stable isotopes and salts by partial evaporation from the shallow water table and is being displaced by irrigation, drainage, and regional ground-water flow. Ground-water flow is primarily downward in the study area but can flow upward in some down- slope areas. Transitional areas exist between the downward and upward flow zones, where ground water can move substantial horizontal distances (0.3 to 3.6 kilometers) and can require 10 to 90 years to reach the downslope drainage systems. Simulation of ground-water flow to drainage systems indicates that regional ground water contributes to about 11 percent of annual drainflow. Selenium concentrations in ground water and drainwater are affected by geologic source materials, partial evaporation from a shallow water table, drainage-system, and regional ground-water flow. Temporal variability in drainflow quality is affected in part by the distribution of chemical constituents in ground water and the flow paths to the drainage systems. The mass flux of selenium in drainflows, or load, generally is proportional to flow, and reductions in drainflow quantity should reduce selenium loads over the short-term. Uncertain changes in the distribution of ground-water quality make future changes in drainflow quality difficult to quantify.
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USGS Numbered Series
Effects of ground-water chemistry and flow on quality of drainflow in the western San Joaquin Valley, California