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Geohydrology of Coast Ranges basins

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The Problem:

Population growth and urbanization in the ranges along the western coastline of the U.S.  are increasingly impacting the availability and sustainability of limited water resources. Many of the valley areas in these ranges contain significant aquifers that are important sources for local groundwater for domestic, agricultural, and municipal usage.  These aquifers are increasingly stressed, resulting in falling groundwater levels, water-quality issues, such as salt-water intrusion where some of these valleys meet the ocean, and subsidence.  An improved understanding of these geohydrologic systems is required to address a variety of societal issues including: (1) balancing the sustainability of water resources with increasing demands from pumping; (2) better prediction of the effects of ground-water development, such as surface subsidence; (3) developing strategies for the storage of imported water; (4) amelioration of past aquifer contamination; and (5) predicting the effects of potential future changes in natural recharge to aquifer systems.  The three-dimensional subsurface geohydrologic framework is the fundamental physical constraint upon which hydrologic information is superimposed, and from which predictions of ground-water behavior are derived.

Our Objective:

The goal of this project is to create a greatly improved understanding of geohydrologic systems in Coast Ranges basins by producing 3-dimensional maps of these systems based on geologic information, interpretation, and interpolation (to “plumb” the water relevance of geologic and geophysical mapping). The project will concentrate on the hydrogeology of Coast Ranges basins, focusing first on the central California Coast Ranges and the Coast Ranges basins north of San Francisco, such as the Petaluma.

Research Goals:  develop methods of characterizing the 3-D geometry and properties of basin-fill aquifers, delineate structural features within the basins that may influence groundwater flow, and develop and improve mapping methods in these deposits to predict their material properties and role in promoting or hindering groundwater flow in (1) the central California Coast Ranges basins and (2) the northern California Coast Ranges basins.

Taking a gravity measurement in Napa Valley
Taking gravity measurements in the Napa Valley.


Cooperators and Collaborators:

California Geological Survey
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Sonoma County Water Agency

Contact Us!

To see information about a previous geohydrology research associated with this project, click here.

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