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Geohydrological characterization, water-chemistry, and ground-water flow simulation model of the Sonoma Valley area, Sonoma County, California

June 27, 2006

The Sonoma Valley, located about 30 miles north of San Francisco, is one of several basins in Sonoma County that use a combination of ground water and water delivered from the Russian River for supply. Over the past 30 years, Sonoma Valley has experienced rapid population growth and land-use changes. In particular, there has been a significant increase in irrigated agriculture, predominantly vineyards. To provide a better understanding of the ground-water/surface-water system in Sonoma Valley, the U.S. Geological Survey compiled and evaluated existing data, collected and analyzed new data, and developed a ground-water flow model to better understand and manage the ground-water system. The new data collected include subsurface lithology, gravity measurements, groundwater levels, streamflow gains and losses, temperature, water chemistry, and stable isotopes.
Sonoma Valley is drained by Sonoma Creek, which discharges into San Pablo Bay. The long-term average annual volume of precipitation in the watershed is estimated to be 269,000 acre-feet. Recharge to the ground-water system is primarily from direct precipitation and Sonoma Creek. Discharge from the ground-water system is predominantly outflow to Sonoma Creek, pumpage, and outflow to marshlands and to San Pablo Bay. Geologic units of most importance for groundwater supply are the Quaternary alluvial deposits, the Glen Ellen Formation, the Huichica Formation, and the Sonoma Volcanics. In this report, the ground-water system is divided into three depth-based geohydrologic units: upper (less than 200 feet below land surface), middle (between 200 and 500 feet), and lower (greater than 500 feet).
Synoptic streamflow measurements were made along Sonoma Creek and indicate those reaches with statistically significant gains or losses. Changes in ground-water levels in wells were analyzed by comparing historical contour maps with the contour map for 2003. In addition, individual hydrographs were evaluated to assess temporal changes by region. In recent years, pumping depressions have developed southeast of Sonoma and southwest of El Verano.
Water-chemistry data for samples collected from 75 wells during 2002-04 indicate that the ground-water quality in the study area generally is acceptable for potable use. The water from some wells, however, contains one or more constituents in excess of the recommended standards for drinking water. The chemical composition of water from creeks, springs, and wells sampled for major ions plot within three groups on a trilinear diagram: mixed-bicarbonate, sodium-mixed anion, and sodium-bicarbonate. An area of saline ground water in the southern part of the Sonoma Valley appears to have shifted since the late 1940s and early 1950s, expanding in one area, but receding in another. Sparse temperature data from wells southwest of the known occurrence of thermal water suggest that thermal water may be present beneath a larger part of the valley than previously thought. Thermal water contains higher concentrations of dissolved minerals than nonthermal waters because mineral solubilities generally increase with temperature. Geohydrologic Characterization, Water-Chemistry, and Ground-Water Flow Simulation Model of the Sonoma Valley Area, Sonoma County, California
Oxygen-18 (d18 O) and deuterium (dD) values for water from most wells plot along the global meteoric water line, indicating that recharge primarily is derived from the direct infiltration of precipitation or the infiltration of seepage from creeks. Samples from shallow- and intermediate-depth wells located near Sonoma Creek and (or) in the vicinity of Shellville plot to the right of the global meteoric water line, indicating that these waters are partly evaporated. The d18 O and dD composition of water from sampled wells indicates that water from wells deeper than 200 feet is isotopically lighter (more negative) than water from wells less than 200 feet deep, possibly indicating that older ground wate

Publication Year 2006
Title Geohydrological characterization, water-chemistry, and ground-water flow simulation model of the Sonoma Valley area, Sonoma County, California
DOI 10.3133/sir20065092
Authors Christopher D. Farrar, Loren F. Metzger, Tracy Nishikawa, Kathryn M. Koczot, Eric G. Reichard, Victoria E. Langenheim
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2006-5092
Index ID sir20065092
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center