Hydrologic analysis of the Mojave River, California, using a mathematical model

Water-Resources Investigations Report 74-17



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The channel of the Mojave Rive'r in California is normally dry and is highly permeable over much of its length, and large quantities of water from natural floodflows in the channel infiltrate through the channel bed to the underlying ground-water body. From 1930 to 1972 only 18 floods at The Forks produced flow at Barstow, 55 miles (88 kilometres) downstream from The Forks. Peak discharges at Barstow from these floods ranged from 180 cubic feet per second (5 cubic metres per second) in 1967 to 64,300 cubic feet per second (1,820 cubic metres per second) in 1938. Total stream infiltration, primarily as ground-water recharge, ranged from 3,600 acre-feet (4.40 cubic hectometres) in 1935 to 50,400 acre-feet (62.1 cubic hectometres) in 1969 between The Forks and Victorville and from about 7,000 acre-feet (8.61 cubic hectometres) in 1935 to 128,000 acre-feet (158 cubic hectometres) in 1969 between Victorville and Barstow.

The Mojave Water Agency is considering the use of the channel of the river to convey water imported from northern California through Silverwood Reservoir (5 miles or 8 kilometres upstream from The Forks) downstream to the Barstow area. The imported water would be used to replenish aquifers underlying the Barstow area. A mathematical model was developed that simulates the advance of discharge down the initially dry channel of the Mojave River, and the model was used to evaluate the potential of the channel to move imported water downstream to Barstow.

Results of simulation by modeling indicate that the channel of the Mojave River can be used to efficiently convey imported water to Barstow only when the absorption capacity of the channel has been reduced by an antecedent flood. The volume of imported water that can reach Barstow depends on the volume and duration of the antecedent flood, on the volume of imported water released trom Silverwood Reservoir, and on the rate at which imported water is released. A release of 20,000 acre-feet (24.6 cubic hectometres) of imported water may produce at Barstow a maximum volume of imported water of 2,500, 8,000, 11,000, or 15,000 acre-feet (3.08, 9.86, 13.6, or 18.4 cubic hectometres) for a release rate of 500, 750, 1,000, or 2,000 cubic feet per second (14.2, 21.2, 28.3, or 56.8 cubic metres per second).

For planning purposes in evaluating some of the hydraulic effects of recharge on the aquifer, a simulation of the aquifer near the Barstow area using an electrical analog model showed that a combination of no pumping and a yearly recharge of 5,000 acre-feet (6.17 cubic hectometres) for 10 years could raise ground-water levels at least 10 feet (3 metres) over an area of about 10 square miles (25 square kilometres). To obtain the water-level changes due to the combined effects of pumping and recharge, the above water-level changes should be superimposed on the separate effects of pumping.

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USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic analysis of the Mojave River, California, using a mathematical model
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
v, 50 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Mojave River