Springs of California

Water Supply Paper 338



In 1903 the United States Geological Survey began an investigation of the underground water of California, generally with financial cooperation on the part of the State. Since that year ten papers on the underground water of the State have been issued by the Survey, each representing an investigation that has been completed. The field work which is to serve as the basis for two additional papers has also been done and the reports are in preparation. Investigations have been begun in two other areas in the State and their results will eventually be assembled and published.

Since a period soon after the inception of the California work those responsible for its conduct have realized the desirability of a special study of the springs, particularly those which yield mineral waters and which are utilized to a greater or less extent by citizens of the State and by tourists as recreation and health resorts. It did not become practicable to begin this work until the summer of 1908, when Mr. G. A. Waring, who had assisted in some of the earlier California studies and had investigated for the Survey certain areas in southern Oregon and Washington, was assigned to the task of collecting and assembling the necessary data.

California, with an area of 158,000 square miles, is the second largest State in the Union. It exhibits wide geographic diversity, since it includes the lowest area in the United States Death Valley, 276 feet below sea level and the highest Mount Whitney, 14,501 feet above the sea; and accompanying this geographic diversity there is a corresponding range in scenic effects, climate, and vegetation. The records obtained at meteorological stations in the Salton Sink indicate a maximum temperature of 130° in the shade, the highest of record within the continental United States. It is probable that minimum temperatures on the higher peaks, like Mount Whitney and Mount Shasta, approach the minimum within our boundaries. Rainfall records in the most arid sections of the southern deserts of the State represent the extreme of aridity in the United States, with averages of less than 3 inches per annum and periods of 12 months or more with only traces of rain, whereas the precipitation in northwestern California is very heavy, an annual average of close to 100 inches being recorded at a few stations in Mendocino and Del Norte counties.

The immensity of the area of the State has made the collection of the field data required for the report a task of considerable magnitude, though its diversity has added greatly to the interest of the work. In the original plan it was estimated that two years of field studies would prove sufficient. Mr. Waring succeeded in visiting the more important localities during this period, although some of his examinations were, of necessity, rather cursory. In midsummer, 1910, after the completion of the field work and the assembling of the greater portion of his data in manuscript form he was called by the Government of Brazil to take charge of general water supply investigations in the northeastern arid portion of that South American republic. The task of reviewing, editing, and supplementing in some respects, the results of his studies was thus unavoidably left to others. This task was rendered light by the systematic form in which Mr. Waring's material was left.

It was a matter of regret to Mr. Waring, as it has been to those associated with him, that the financial limitations which controlled his work made it impracticable to procure the large number of new analyses which are particularly important in a paper of this type, in which waters of unusual chemical characteristics are discussed. Such analyses as are available have been assembled from all possible sources and combined with those which were prepared especially in connection with this investigation. The result, although it is in some respects unsatisfactory, furnishes a basis for a general view of the characteristics of the spring waters and serves to permit, their classification in a general way. Mr. Herman Stabler has reviewed the chemical data and rearranged and interpreted the available analyses.

It is hoped that the report, setting forth as it does the results of impartial observations upon one of the important present and more important prospective resources of the State, will prove of value to its citizens as well as to its visitors, and that the assembled material will not be without interest to physicians, chemists, geologists, and teachers who may have especial need for the information contained in the volume.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Springs of California
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 338
DOI 10.3133/wsp338
Year Published 1915
Language English
Publisher Government Printing Office
Description Report: 410 p.; 3 Plates: 20.66 x 24.79 inches or smaller
Country United States
State California
Scale 2000000
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