Delta oxygen-18 and delta deuterium composition of precipitation and water from wells in the Mojave River and the Morongo ground-water basins in the western part of the Mojave Desert show that ground-water recharge occurs primarily from winter precipitation near low-altitude passes in the San Bernardino and the San Gabriel Mountains?as opposed to runoff from higher altitudes in the mountains. The resulting deuterium composition of the ground water, about -64 per mil, contrasts sharply with the isotopic composition of water from wells recharged by runoff from higher altitudes of the San Gabriel and the San Bernardino Mountains, about -84 per mil. These differences define the 3-dimensional movement of ground water between aquifers especially downgradient from faults that act as barriers to ground-water flow. Water recharged from runoff in the mountains farther to the east in the Mojave Desert plots to the right of the meteoric water line and after accounting for evaporative effects had an isotopic composition lighter than present-day precipitation.
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USGS Numbered Series
Source and Movement of Ground Water in the Western Part of the Mojave Desert, Southern California, USA