Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Simulation of groundwater and surface-water resources of the San Antonio Creek Valley watershed, Santa Barbara County, California

February 1, 2022

In the San Antonio Creek Valley watershed (SACVW), western Santa Barbara County, California, groundwater is the primary source of water for agricultural irrigation, the town of Los Alamos, and supplemental water to Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB). Groundwater pumpage has increased since the 1970s as non-irrigated agricultural land has been converted to irrigated land and as local pumping for municipal use has increased. This increase in groundwater use has resulted in declining groundwater levels, adjustments in surface-water flows and species habitats, and changes in water quality. Water managers are addressing the challenges of meeting this increased demand while maintaining sustainable groundwater supplies. To address these challenges, Santa Barbara County Water Agency, Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) undertook a cooperative study to characterize the integrated hydrologic system of the SACVW and develop tools to better understand and manage the groundwater system. The objectives of this study were to improve the understanding of the integrated hydrologic system and incorporate the understanding into an integrated groundwater and surface-water flow model that can be used to help manage the water resources in the SACVW.

The San Antonio Creek integrated model (SACIM) was developed using the USGS coupled groundwater and surface-water flow model to simulate the hydrologic system of the SACVW and provide annual and average water budgets for 1948–2018 water years. Results from the SACIM indicated that between 1948 and 2018, total groundwater from storage (storage depletion) for the period was 453,300 acre-feet (acre-ft). Agricultural pumpage was the largest discharge and accounted for a total of 1,020,000 acre-ft of groundwater. Increased pumpage since the mid-1980s (of which agricultural pumpage is the primary component) is tied to an increased rate of storage depletion and reduced rates of groundwater evapotranspiration and surface leakage (groundwater discharge to the surface and soil zone). The increased pumpage also reduced subsurface inflow to Barka Slough, resulting in a decline in upward flow through the underlying hydrogeologic units and surface leakage. In addition to quantifying historical changes in the integrated hydrologic system, the SACIM is a tool than can be used by water managers to evaluate the effects of different climatic and hydrologic conditions and management strategies.

Publication Year 2022
Title Simulation of groundwater and surface-water resources of the San Antonio Creek Valley watershed, Santa Barbara County, California
DOI 10.3133/sir20215139
Authors Linda R. Woolfenden, John A. Engott, Joshua Larsen, Geoffrey Cromwell
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2021-5139
Index ID sir20215139
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center