Simulation of water-table response to management alternatives, central part of the western San Joaquin Valley, California

Water-Resources Investigations Report 91-4193




The occurrence of selenium in agricultural drainwater in the central pan of the western San Joaquin Valley, California, has focused concern on alternatives other than agricultural drains for managing shallow, poor-quality ground water. A transient, three-dimensional, finite-difference ground-water flow model was developed to assess the response of the water table to various management alternatives. The modeled area is 551 square miles and includes the semiconfined and confined zones above and below the Corcoran Clay Member of the Tulare Formation of Pleistocene age. The model was calibrated using hydrologic data from 1972 to 1988 and was able to reproduce the average change in water-table altitude to within 4 percent. The calibrated model was extended to forecast to the year 2040 for various management alternatives including maintenance of present practices, land retirement, reduced recharge, increased ground-water pumping, combinations of these alternatives, and five alternatives proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The model indicates that if current rates of recharge and pumping (as determined from an analysis of 1980 water-budget data) are maintained, the total area subject to bare-soil evaporation will increase by more than 50 percent and drainflow will increase by 20 percent. Model results indicate that retirement of land will result in a water-table decline beneath the area retired, but the effect on adjacent areas will be small to negligible. The effects of reducing recharge or increasing ground-water pumping vary with the magnitude of the change relative to average conditions and the size of the area managed. The area of land subject to bare-soil evaporation and the amount of drainflow in the model area can be reduced by more than 40 and 50 percent, respectively, if (1) recharge is reduced by 40 percent (about 0.3 foot per year) in areas that currently use only surface water, and by 15 percent (an average of about O. 1 foot per year) in the remainder of the model area; (2) pumping is increased by 0.5 foot per year in areas that currently use surface and ground water.

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Simulation of water-table response to management alternatives, central part of the western San Joaquin Valley, California
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; For sale by the USGS Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
v, 41 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.