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Feasibility and potential effects of the proposed Amargosa Creek Recharge Project, Palmdale, California

September 17, 2015

Historically, the city of Palmdale and vicinity have relied on groundwater as the primary source of water, owing, in large part, to the scarcity of surface water in the region. Despite recent importing of surface water, groundwater withdrawal for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use has resulted in groundwater-level declines near the city of Palmdale in excess of 200 feet since the early 1900s. To meet the growing water demand in the area, the city of Palmdale has proposed the Amargosa Creek Recharge Project (ACRP), which has a footprint of about 150 acres along the Amargosa Creek 2 miles west of Palmdale, California. The objective of this study was to evaluate the long-term feasibility of recharging the Antelope Valley aquifer system by using infiltration of imported surface water from the California State Water Project in percolation basins at the ACRP.

Three monitoring sites were constructed, and geophysical surveys (gravity, seismic, and resistivity) were completed to define the thickness of valley-fill deposits, depth to water, and location of faults that could influence groundwater flow. Data collected at the monitoring sites, and results from the geophysical surveys, were used to identify three northwest-southeast trending faults in the vicinity of the proposed recharge facility; these faults are probably related to the nearby San Andreas fault zone. Water levels collected from wells at the monitoring sites showed water-level altitude differences as much as 230 feet between the upgradient and downgradient sides of the faults, indicating that these faults are barriers to groundwater flow. Lithologic and geophysical logs indicated the presence of a coarse gravel and sand unit extending from land surface to about 150 feet below land surface that did not appear to be disrupted by faulting.

Water samples collected from the monitoring wells were analyzed for major ions, nutrients, trace elements, dissolved organic carbon, volatile organic compounds, stable isotopes of oxygen (oxygen-18) and hydrogen (hydrogen-2, or deuterium), and the radioactive isotopes of hydrogen (hydrogen-3, or tritium) and carbon (carbon-14, or 14C) to determine the water quality of the aquifer system and to help determine the source and age of the groundwater. Results of the water-quality analysis indicated that the source of natural recharge is Amargosa Creek near the ACRP, but that the creek does not provide modern-day recharge downstream of the ACRP.

Potential effects of artificial recharge at the ACRP were evaluated by using a local-scale model of groundwater flow. On the basis of geologic samples collected during drilling, the hydraulic conductivity of the sand and gravel unit in the upper 150 feet was assumed to range from 10 to 100 feet per day. To address the goal of minimizing the potential for liquefaction during an earthquake from water-table rise associated with groundwater recharge at the ACRP, simulated water levels were constrained to remain at least 50 feet below land surface, except beneath the proposed artificial-recharge facility.

The hydraulic conductivities of faults were estimated on the basis of water-level data and an estimate of natural recharge along Amargosa Creek. With assumed horizontal hydraulic conductivities of 10 and 100 feet per day in the upper 150 feet, the simulated maximum artificial recharge rates to the regional flow system at the ACRP were 3,400 and 9,400 acre-feet per year, respectively. These maximum recharge rates were limited primarily by the horizontal hydraulic conductivity in the upper 150 feet and by the liquefaction constraint. Future monitoring of water-level and soil-water content changes during the proposed project would allow improved estimation of aquifer hydraulic properties, the effect of the faults on groundwater movement, and the overall recharge capacity of the ACRP.

Publication Year 2015
Title Feasibility and potential effects of the proposed Amargosa Creek Recharge Project, Palmdale, California
DOI 10.3133/sir20155054
Authors Allen H. Christensen, Adam J. Siade, Peter Martin, Victoria E. Langenheim, Rufus D. Catchings, Matthew K. Burgess
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2015-5054
Index ID sir20155054
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center