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Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM)

August 26, 2012

Benefits to California Water Managers

The CVHM helps to address water competition issues such as:

  • Conjunctive water use (interdependent use of surface water and groundwater)
  • Conservation of agricultural land
  • Land-use change, including environmental concerns and urbanization, and its effects on water resources
  • Effects of climate change


map of the central valley with the CVHM grid cells overlaid, and a cross section of the subsurface
The Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM) is built on knowledge from USGS and other Federal, State, and local studies. The CVHM was constrained by comparing simulated and historically observed groundwater levels, streamflows, and subsidence. The detail and breadth of this hydrologic modeling tool provides a better understanding of valleywide hydrologic processes. This tool also provides realistic boundary conditions so that finely gridded models of smaller areas can be easily developed. To create enough detail to be practical for watermanagement decisions, the aquifer was divided spatially into 20,000 model cells of 1 square mile each, and vertically into ten layers ranging in thickness from 50 to 750 feet. (Public domain.)

CVHM Components


Geospatial Database

A Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to compile, manage, store, and analyze the large quantities of data in the geospatial database needed to run the model, and to understand and visualize the data output.

Get the Data >>


Texture Model

The texture model is key to understanding how water moves through the Central Valley groundwater system. Scientists developed the geologic texture model to describe the coarseness or fineness of valley-fill materials that make up the aquifer system, and then used it to estimate hydraulic properties for every cell in the model grid. To create the model, lithologic data from approximately 8,500 drillers' logs of boreholes ranging in depth from 12 to 3,000 feet below land surface, along with other information, were compiled and analyzed.

Texture Model Details >>


Farm Process

The complex hydrologic system of the Central Valley is simulated using the USGS hydrologic modeling software, MODFLOW. Combined with the Farm Process, MODFLOW simulates natural and human-induced water movement and consumption over the landscape and accounts for supply-constrained and demand-driven conjunctive use of surface and groundwater in agricultural, urban, and natural settings. For the Central Valley, the tool simulates unmetered historical pumping and surface-water deliveries for 21 water-balance regions for water years 1962 to 2003.

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Numerical Model

A numerical groundwater-flow model capable of being accurate at scales relevant to water-management decisions was developed for the Central Valley, California.

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Publication Year 2012
Title Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM)
Product Type Software Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog