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Integrated hydrologic modeling of the Salinas River, California, for sustainable water management

July 1, 2019

The Salinas River is the largest river in California’s Central Coast region. Groundwater resources of the Salinas River basin are used to meet water supply needs, including crop irrigation and municipal water supply. Two large multipurpose reservoirs also supply irrigation and municipal water uses. Historical imbalances between supply and demand have resulted in sinking groundwater levels, seawater intrusion, regulatory actions on pumping, adjudication, and requirements for minimum in-stream fish flows. Present needs include finding replacement water supplies and improving watershed management to comply with legal mandates, adapt to future climate variability and landuse conversions, and improve environmental conditions. The Salinas Valley Integrated Hydrologic Model (SVIHM) was developed to help water managers evaluate and adjust to projected impacts on water supplies and demands in the Salinas Valley watershed caused by changes in land use, population, and climate. The SVIHM includes four modeling components: (1) the Basin Characterization Model (BCM), (2) the Hydrologic Simulation Program – FORTRAN (HSPF), (3) MODFLOW - One Water Hydrologic Model (MF-OWHM), and (4) the Surface Water Operations (SWO) package. The BCM and HSPF components compose the Salinas Valley Watershed Model (SVWM). The 4,530 square-mile (mi2) SVWM domain encompasses the entire Salinas River watershed, as well as coastal drainages adjacent to the Salinas River outflow, and includes two separate and connected HSPF model domains, the 2,540 mi2 upper Salinas River and the 1,990 mi2 lower Salinas River models. SVWM (1) simulates the water budget for the entire Salinas River basin containing both the SVIHM domain as well as the mountainous terrain of the tributary headwater areas not included in the SVIHM; and (2) was used to develop the 148 boundary inflows for the SVIHM. Simulated evapotranspiration (ET) is the largest component of the water budget after precipitation, with a 71-year average basin-wide ET of 13.9 in/yr, compared to the basin-wide average precipitation of 18.4 in/yr. Simulated ET ranges from 15 to 29 in/yr along the western side of the SVWM to less than 10 in/yr throughout the valley floor and in the southeast part of the Salinas River watershed. The simulated total 71-year average inflow to the SVIHM was 890 ft3/sec (about 640,000 acre-feet per year), with the highest average inflow of 270 ft3/sec simulated for the Nacimiento River; whereas, the simulated 71-year average streamflow at the mouth of the Salinas River was only about 190 ft3/sec, indicating that most of the streamflow generated in the Salinas River basin is lost to channel seepage. The lack of sustained baseflow causes streamflow to be highly sensitive to the temporal variability in precipitation, especially during the drier periods, and this increases the importance of developing adequate reservoir management, flow augmentation, and conjunctive water use scenarios for potential future drought periods and potentially increased temporal variability in precipitation.

Publication Year 2019
Title Integrated hydrologic modeling of the Salinas River, California, for sustainable water management
Authors Joseph A. Hevesi, Wesley R. Henson, Randall T. Hanson, Scott E. Boyce
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70203891
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center