Mass transport can have a significant effect on chemical diagenetic processes in sedimentary basins. This paper presents results from the first part of a study that was designed to explore the role of an evolving hydrodynamic system in driving mass transport and chemical diagenesis, using the San Joaquin basin of California as a field area. We use coupled hydrogeologic models to establish the paleohydrogeology, thermal history, and behavior of nonreactive solutes in the basin. These models rely on extensive geological information and account for variable-density fluid flow, heat transport, solute transport, tectonic uplift, sediment compaction, and clay dehydration. In our numerical simulations, tectonic uplift and ocean regression led to large-scale changes in fluid flow and composition by strengthening topography-driven fluid flow and allowing deep influx of fresh ground water in the San Joaquin basin. Sediment compaction due to rapid deposition created moderate overpressures, leading to upward flow from depth. The unusual distribution of salinity in the basin reflects influx of fresh ground water to depths of as much as 2 km and dilution of saline fluids by dehydration reactions at depths greater than ???2.5 km. Simulations projecting the future salinity of the basin show marine salinities persisting for more than 10 m.y. after ocean regression. Results also show a change from topography-to compaction-driven flow in the Stevens Sandstone at ca. 5 Ma that coincides with an observed change in the diagenetic sequence. Results of this investigation provide a framework for future hydrologic research exploring the link between fluid flow and diagenesis.