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Update of the Accounting Surface Along the Lower Colorado River

July 23, 2008

The accounting-surface method was developed in the 1990s by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, to identify wells outside the flood plain of the lower Colorado River that yield water that will be replaced by water from the river. This method was needed to identify which wells require an entitlement for diversion of water from the Colorado River and need to be included in accounting for consumptive use of Colorado River water as outlined in the Consolidated Decree of the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. California. The method is based on the concept of a river aquifer and an accounting surface within the river aquifer. The study area includes the valley adjacent to the lower Colorado River and parts of some adjacent valleys in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah and extends from the east end of Lake Mead south to the southerly international boundary with Mexico. Contours for the original accounting surface were hand drawn based on the shape of the aquifer, water-surface elevations in the Colorado River and drainage ditches, and hydrologic judgment. This report documents an update of the original accounting surface based on updated water-surface elevations in the Colorado River and drainage ditches and the use of simple, physically based ground-water flow models to calculate the accounting surface in four areas adjacent to the free-flowing river.