Geohydrologic Framework of Recharge and Seawater Intrusion in the Pajaro Valley, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, California

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2003-4096



Pajaro Valley is a coastal watershed of 160 square miles located along Monterey Bay north of Elkhorn Slough and south of the city of Santa Cruz. The valley has been predominantly developed for agriculture since the late 1800s. In 1984 the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA) was formed and was delegated with the responsibility of the management of the water resources within the Pajaro Valley by the State of California. About 84 percent of the water is used for agriculture and 16 percent is used for industrial and municipal water supply; almost all of the demand is supplied by ground water. Ground-water pumpage varies with seasonal and climatic periods. The alluvial aquifers are composed of Quaternary- and Tertiary-aged sediments that are layered marine and terrestrial coarse-grained deposits separated by extensive fine-grained deposits that potentially restrict vertical movement of ground water and seawater intrusion in the coastal subareas. The coarse-grained deposits, which persist over large areas, control pumpage and related seawater intrusion. The Aromas Sand crops out throughout the north and central parts of the PVWMA area and offshore on the continental shelf and in Monterey submarine canyon. Because many of the wells in the coastal and inland subregions are screened at depths of 200 to 400 feet below land surface, a direct avenue is provided for seawater intrusion through the coarse-grained deposits of the shallower alluvium and Aromas Sand. Geophysical logs from monitoring wells indicate discrete zones of saline water that are related to pumpage and seawater intrusion in the aquifers of the shallower alluvium and upper Aromas Sand in the upper-aquifer system and to deeper saline waters in the lower Aromas Sand within the lower-aquifer system. The precipitation data indicate that there were at least nine dry and nine wet periods that range from 2 to 19 years during the period of record, 1880?1997. The ground-water pumpage, runoff, streamflow and related water quality of streamflow also vary with seasonal and climatic periods. Recharge occurs from deep percolation of precipitation and from infiltration of streamflow. Streamflow originates from local runoff and from outside the valley as inflow from the Pajaro River. Although partly regulated, streamflow in the Pajaro River at Chittenden is less than 200 cubic feet per second 88 percent of the time and is less than 12 cubic feet per second 50 percent of the time. Streamflow water-quality data suggest that there may be several sources of poor-quality water that contribute to elevated chloride, sulfate, and nitrate concentrations in streamflow. The poor water quality occurring during lower streamflows indicates that low flows may be an additional source of salinity for ground-water recharge as streamflow infiltration along the Pajaro River. The geochemical data from this study indicate that the two main sources of recharge are deep percolation of local runoff and streamflow infiltration of Pajaro River water. The geophysical and geochemical data suggest that only the shallow alluvial aquifer and parts of the upper Aromas Sand that constitute the upper-aquifer system are being replenished by recent recharge in the coastal areas of Pajaro Valley and represent the renewable ground-water resources. These data also suggest that there is very little vertical flow through the layered aquifer systems in the coastal regions. The confining aquitards are laterally extensive but may be missing in places owing to fluvial erosion or offsetting by fault movement. Geochemical and geophysical data indicate that the ground water from some parts of the upper and lower Aromas Sand in the coastal regions was recharged thousands of years ago and may, in part, represent nonrenewable ground-water resources. The analysis of major-ion chemistry, in combination with isotope and trace-element/chloride ratios, indicates that the coastal ground-water and surface-water samples
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geohydrologic Framework of Recharge and Seawater Intrusion in the Pajaro Valley, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, California
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 2003-4096
DOI 10.3133/wri034096
Edition -
Year Published 2003
Language ENGLISH
Description 88 p.
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