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Documentation of a groundwater flow model (SJRRPGW) for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program study area, California

October 7, 2014

To better understand the potential effects of restoration flows on existing drainage problems, anticipated as a result of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), developed a groundwater flow model (SJRRPGW) of the SJRRP study area that is within 5 miles of the San Joaquin River and adjacent bypass system from Friant Dam to the Merced River. The primary goal of the SJRRP is to reestablish the natural ecology of the river to a degree that restores salmon and other fish populations. Increased flows in the river, particularly during the spring salmon run, are a key component of the restoration effort. A potential consequence of these increased river flows is the exacerbation of existing irrigation drainage problems along a section of the river between Mendota and the confluence with the Merced River. Historically, this reach typically was underlain by a water table within 10 feet of the land surface, thus requiring careful irrigation management and (or) artificial drainage to maintain crop health. The SJRRPGW is designed to meet the short-term needs of the SJRRP; future versions of the model may incorporate potential enhancements, several of which are identified in this report.

The SJRRPGW was constructed using the USGS groundwater flow model MODFLOW and was built on the framework of the USGS Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM) within which the SJRRPGW model domain is embedded. The Farm Process (FMP2) was used to simulate the supply and demand components of irrigated agriculture. The Streamflow-Routing Package (SFR2) was used to simulate the streams and bypasses and their interaction with the aquifer system. The 1,300-square mile study area was subdivided into 0.25-mile by 0.25-mile cells. The sediment texture of the aquifer system, which was used to distribute hydraulic properties by model cell, was refined from that used in the CVHM to better represent the natural heterogeneity of aquifer-system materials within the model domain. In addition, the stream properties were updated from the CVHM to better simulate stream-aquifer interactions, and water-budget subregions were refined to better simulate agricultural water supply and demand. External boundary conditions were derived from the CVHM.

The SJRRPGW was calibrated for April 1961 to September 2003 by using groundwater-level observations from 133 wells and streamflow observations from 19 streamgages. The model was calibrated using public-domain parameter estimation software (PEST) in a semi-automated manner. The simulated groundwater-level elevations and trends (including seasonal fluctuations) and surface-water flow magnitudes and trends reasonably matched observed data. The calibrated model is planned to be used to assess the potential effects of restoration flows on agricultural lands and the relative capabilities of proposed SJRRP actions to reduce these effects.

Publication Year 2014
Title Documentation of a groundwater flow model (SJRRPGW) for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program study area, California
DOI 10.3133/sir20145148
Authors Jonathan A. Traum, Steven P. Phillips, George L. Bennett V, Celia Zamora, Loren F. Metzger
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5148
Index ID sir20145148
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center