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An update of the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system transient model, Nevada and California

January 19, 2017

Since the original publication of the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system (DVRFS) numerical model in 2004, more information on the regional groundwater flow system in the form of new data and interpretations has been compiled. Cooperators such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Energy, and Nye County, Nevada, recognized a need to update the existing regional numerical model to maintain its viability as a groundwater management tool for regional stakeholders. The existing DVRFS numerical flow model was converted to MODFLOW-2005, updated with the latest available data, and recalibrated. Five main data sets were revised: (1) recharge from precipitation varying in time and space, (2) pumping data, (3) water-level observations, (4) an updated regional potentiometric map, and (5) a revision to the digital hydrogeologic framework model.

The resulting DVRFS version 2.0 (v. 2.0) numerical flow model simulates groundwater flow conditions for the Death Valley region from 1913 to 2003 to correspond to the time frame for the most recently published (2008) water-use data. The DVRFS v 2.0 model was calibrated by using the Tikhonov regularization functionality in the parameter estimation and predictive uncertainty software PEST. In order to assess the accuracy of the numerical flow model in simulating regional flow, the fit of simulated to target values (consisting of hydraulic heads and flows, including evapotranspiration and spring discharge, flow across the model boundary, and interbasin flow; the regional water budget; values of parameter estimates; and sensitivities) was evaluated. This evaluation showed that DVRFS v. 2.0 simulates conditions similar to DVRFS v. 1.0. Comparisons of the target values with simulated values also indicate that they match reasonably well and in some cases (boundary flows and discharge) significantly better than in DVRFS v. 1.0.

Publication Year 2017
Title An update of the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system transient model, Nevada and California
DOI 10.3133/sir20165150
Authors Wayne R. Belcher, Donald S. Sweetkind, Claudia C. Faunt, Michael T. Pavelko, Mary C. Hill
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2016-5150
Index ID sir20165150
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center