Preliminary hydrogeologic assessment near the boundary of the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins, California
The increasing demands on groundwater for water supply in desert areas in California and the western United States have resulted in the need to better understand groundwater sources, availability, and sustainability. This is true for a 650-square-mile area that encompasses the Antelope Valley, El Mirage Valley, and Upper Mojave River Valley groundwater basins, about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California, in the western part of the Mojave Desert. These basins have been adjudicated to ensure that groundwater rights are allocated according to legal judgments. In an effort to assess if the boundary between the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins could be better defined, the U.S. Geological Survey began a cooperative study in 2014 with the Mojave Water Agency to better understand the hydrogeology in the area and investigate potential controls on groundwater flow and availability, including basement topography.
Recharge is sporadic and primarily from small ephemeral washes and streams that originate in the San Gabriel Mountains to the south; estimates range from about 400 to 1,940 acre-feet per year. Lateral underflow from adjacent basins has been considered minor in previous studies; underflow from the Antelope Valley to the El Mirage Valley groundwater basin has been estimated to be between 100 and 1,900 acre-feet per year. Groundwater discharge is primarily from pumping, mostly by municipal supply wells. Between October 2013 and September 2014, the municipal pumpage in the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins was reported to be about 800 and 2,080 acre-feet, respectively.
This study was motivated by the results from a previously completed regional gravity study, which suggested a northeast-trending subsurface basement ridge and saddle approximately 3.5 miles west of the boundary between the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins that might influence groundwater flow. To better define potential basement structures that could affect groundwater flow between the groundwater basins in the study area, gravity data were collected using more closely spaced measurements in September 2014. Groundwater-level data was gathered and collected from March 2014 through March 2015 to determine depth to water and direction of groundwater flow. The gravity and groundwater-level data showed that the saturated thickness of the alluvium was about 2,000 feet thick to the east and about 130 feet thick above the northward-trending basement ridge near Llano, California. Although it was uncertain whether the basement ridge affects the groundwater system, a potential barrier to groundwater flow could be created if the water table fell below the altitude of the basement ridge, effectively causing the area to the west of the basement ridge to become hydraulically isolated from the area to the east. In addition, the direction of regional-groundwater flow likely will be influenced by future changes in the number and distribution of pumping wells and the thickness of the saturated alluvium from which water is withdrawn. Three-dimensional animations were created to help visualize the relation between the basins’ basement topography and the groundwater system in the area. Further studies that could help to more accurately define the basins and evaluate the groundwater-flow system include exploratory drilling of multi-depth monitoring wells; collection of depth-dependent water-quality samples; and linking together existing, but separate, groundwater-flow models from the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins into a single, calibrated groundwater-flow model.
|Preliminary hydrogeologic assessment near the boundary of the Antelope Valley and El Mirage Valley groundwater basins, California
|Christina L. Stamos, Allen H. Christensen, Victoria E. Langenheim
|USGS Numbered Series
|Scientific Investigations Report
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|California Water Science Center