Geohydrology, geochemistry, and numerical simulation of groundwater flow and land subsidence in the Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center, California

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5067

Prepared in cooperation with the Fort Irwin National Training Center



Groundwater pumping from Bicycle Groundwater Basin (referred to as Bicycle Basin) in the Fort Irwin National Training Center, California, began in 1967. From 1967 to December 2010, about 46,000 acre-feet of water had been pumped from the basin and transported to the Irwin Basin. During this time, not only did water levels in the basin decline by as much as 100 feet, the quality of the groundwater pumped from the basin also deteriorated in some wells. The U.S. Geological Survey collected geohydrologic data from existing wells, test holes, and 16 additional monitoring wells installed at 6 sites in Bicycle Basin during 1992–2011 to determine the quantity and quality of groundwater available in the basin. Geophysical surveys, including electrical, gravity, and seismic refraction surveys, were completed to help determine the geometry of the structural basin, delineate depths to the interface between Quaternary and Tertiary rocks, map the depth to the water table, and used to develop a geohydrologic framework and groundwater-flow model for Bicycle Basin. Water samples were used to determine the groundwater quality in the basin and to delineate potential sources of poor-quality groundwater. Analysis of stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in groundwater indicated that presentday precipitation is not a major source of recharge to the basin. Tritium and carbon-14 data indicated that most of the groundwater in the basin was recharged prior to 1952 and had an apparent age of 15,625–39,350 years. Natural recharge to the basin was not sufficient to replenish the groundwater pumped from the basin. Interferograms from synthetic aperture radar data (InSAR), analyzed to evaluate land-surface subsidence between 1993 and 2010, showed 0.23 to 1.1 feet of subsidence during this period near one production well north of Bicycle Lake (dry) playa. A groundwater-flow model of Bicycle Basin was developed and calibrated using groundwater levels for 1964– 2010, and a subsidence model using land-surface deformation data for 1993–2010. Between January 1967 and December 2010, the simulated total recharge from precipitation runoff and underflow from adjacent basins was about 5,100 acre-feet and pumpage from the Bicycle Basin was about 47,000 acrefeet of water. Total outflows exceeded natural recharge during this period, resulting in a net loss of about 42,100 acre-feet of groundwater storage in the basin. The Fort Irwin National Training Center is considering various groundwater-management options in the Bicycle Basin. The groundwater-flow model was used to (1) evaluate changes in groundwater levels and subsidence with the addition of capture and recharge of simulated runoff in retention basins (scenario 1) for predevelopment through 2010; (2) simulate a base case (scenario 2) for reference; and (3) compare projections of alternative future pumping strategies for 2011–60 (scenarios 3–5). Model results from the runoff-capture simulation (scenario 1) indicated that total recharge, including runoff captured using retention basins, locally increased water levels, which partially offset, but did not mitigate, groundwater depletion associated with pumping. Groundwater-storage depletion in scenario 1 was about 14 percent less than without runoff capture. Simulated-drawdown results in model layer 1 in the eastern part of the basin indicated that, because of the captured runoff, simulated heads were as much as 100 feet higher in December 2010 than prior to the onset of development in 1967. In contrast, simulated drawdown for model without runoff capture indicated that, without captured runoff, simulated heads for December 2010 in this area were 80–90 feet lower than during the predevelopment period. Subsidence was mitigated slightly in scenario 1 compared to without runoff capture; the largest decrease in subsidence at observation sites was about 0.07 feet.

Suggested Citation

Densmore, J.N., Woolfenden L.R., Rewis, D.L., Martin, P.M., Sneed, M., Ellett, K.M., Solt, M., and Miller, D.M., 2018, Geohydrology, geochemistry, and numerical simulation of groundwater flow and land subsidence in the Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center, California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5067, 176 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Geohydrologic Framework
  • Geochemistry of Groundwater
  • Groundwater-Flow Model
  • Simulated Effects of Runoff Capture and Future Pumpage
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geohydrology, geochemistry, and numerical simulation of groundwater flow and land subsidence in the Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center, California
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
California Water Science Center
xi, 176 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Bicycle Basin, Fort Irwin National Training Center
Online Only (Y/N):