Hydrogeologic controls and geochemical indicators of groundwater movement in the Niles Cone and southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins, Alameda County, California

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5003
Prepared in cooperation with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, City of Hayward, and Alameda County Water District
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Beginning in the 1970s, Alameda County Water District began infiltrating imported water through ponds in repurposed gravel quarries at the Quarry Lakes Regional Park, in the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin, to recharge groundwater and to minimize intrusion of saline, San Francisco Bay water into freshwater aquifers. Hydraulic connection between distinct aquifers underlying Quarry Lakes allows water to recharge the upper aquifer system to depths of 400 feet below land surface, and the Deep aquifer to depths of more than 650 feet. Previous studies of the Niles Cone and southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins suggested that these two subbasins may be hydraulically connected. Characterization of storage capacities and hydraulic properties of the complex aquifers and the structural and stratigraphic controls on groundwater movement aids in optimal storage and recovery of recharged water and provides information on the ability of aquifers shared by different water management agencies to fulfill competing storage and extraction demands. The movement of recharge water through the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin from Quarry Lakes and the possible hydraulic connection between the Niles Cone and the southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins were investigated using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), water-chemistry, and isotopic data, including tritium/helium-3, helium-4, and carbon-14 age-dating techniques.

InSAR data collected during refilling of the Quarry Lakes recharge ponds show corresponding ground-surface displacement. Maximum uplift was about 0.8 inches, reasonable for elastic expansion of sedimentary materials experiencing an increase in hydraulic head that resulted from pond refilling. Sodium concentrations increase while calcium and magnesium concentrations in groundwater decrease along groundwater flowpaths from the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin through the Deep aquifer to the northwest toward the southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasin. Residual effects of pre-1970s intrusion of saline water from San Francisco Bay, including high chloride concentrations in groundwater, are evident in parts of the Niles Cone subbasin. Noble gas recharge temperatures indicate two primary recharge sources (Quarry Lakes and Alameda Creek) in the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin. Although recharge at Quarry Lakes affects hydraulic heads as far as the transition zone between the Niles Cone and East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins (about 5 miles), the effect of recharged water on water quality is only apparent in wells near (less than 2 miles) recharge sources. Groundwater chemistry from upper aquifer system wells near Quarry Lakes showed an evaporated signal (less negative oxygen and hydrogen isotopic values) relative to surrounding groundwater and a tritium concentration (2 tritium units) consistent with recently recharged water from a surface-water impoundment.

Uncorrected carbon-14 activities measured in water sampled from wells in the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin range from 16 to 100 percent modern carbon (pmC). The geochemical reaction modeling software NETPATH was used to interpret carbon-14 ages along a flowpath from Quarry Lakes toward the East Bay Plain groundwater subbasin. Model results indicate that changes in groundwater chemistry are controlled by cation exchange on clay minerals and weathering of primary silicate minerals. Old groundwater (lower carbon-14 activities) is characterized by high dissolved silica and pH. Interpreted carbon-14 ages ranged from 830 to more than 7,000 years before present and are less than helium-4 ages that range from 2,000 to greater than 11,000 years before present. The average horizontal groundwater velocity along the studied flowpath, as calculated using interpreted carbon-14 ages, through the Deep aquifer of the Niles Cone groundwater subbasin is between 3 and 12 feet per year. The groundwater velocity decreases near the boundary of the transition zone to the southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasin to about 0.5 feet per year. These changes may result from water recharged from different sources converging in flowpaths north of the transition zone, or a boundary to flow between the Niles Cone and southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins, likely owing to changes in lithology caused by depositional patterns.

Suggested Citation

Teague, Nick, Izbicki, John, Borchers, Jim, Kulongoski, Justin, and Jurgens, Bryant, 2018, Hydrogeologic controls and geochemical indicators of groundwater movement in the Niles Cone and southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins, Alameda County, California (ver. 1.1, February 2019): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5003, 62 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185003.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Hydrogeology
  • Geochemistry
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrogeologic controls and geochemical indicators of groundwater movement in the Niles Cone and southern East Bay Plain groundwater subbasins, Alameda County, California
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2018-5003
DOI 10.3133/sir20185003
Edition Ver. 1.0: February 2018; Ver. 1.1: February 2019
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description x, 62 p.
Country United States
State California
County Alameda County
Online Only (Y/N) Y