Hydrogeology, hydrologic effects of development, and simulation of groundwater flow in the Borrego Valley, San Diego County, California

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5150
Prepared in cooperation with the Borrego Water District
By: , and 


Executive Summary

The Borrego Valley is a small valley (110 square miles) in the northeastern part of San Diego County, California. Although the valley is about 60 miles northeast of city of San Diego, it is separated from the Pacific Ocean coast by the mountains to the west and is mostly within the boundaries of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. From the time the basin was first settled, groundwater has been the only source of water to the valley. Groundwater is used for agricultural, recreational, and municipal purposes. Over time, groundwater withdrawal through pumping has exceeded the amount of water that has been replenished, causing groundwater-level declines of more than 100 feet in some parts of the basin. Continued pumping has resulted in an increase in pumping lifts, reduced well efficiency, dry wells, changes in water quality, and loss of natural groundwater discharge. As a result, the U.S. Geological Survey began a cooperative study of the Borrego Valley with the Borrego Water District (BWD) in 2009. The purpose of the study was to develop a greater understanding of the hydrogeology of the Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin (BVGB) and to provide tools to help evaluate the potential hydrologic effects of future development. The objectives of the study were to (1) improve the understanding of groundwater conditions and land subsidence, (2) incorporate this improved understanding into a model that would assist in the management of the groundwater resources in the Borrego Valley, and (3) use this model to test several management scenarios. This model provides the capability for the BWD and regional stakeholders to quantify the relative benefits of various options for increasing groundwater storage. The study focuses on the period 1945–2010, with scenarios 50 years into the future.

This report documents and presents (1) an analysis of the conceptual model, (2) a description of the hydrologic features, (3) a compilation and analysis of water-quality data, (4) the measurement and analysis of land subsidence by using geophysical and remote sensing techniques, (5) the development and calibration of a two-dimensional borehole-groundwater-flow model to estimate aquifer hydraulic conductivities, (6) the development and calibration of a three-dimensional (3-D) integrated hydrologic flow model, (7) a water-availability analysis with respect to current climate variability and land use, and (8) potential future management scenarios. The integrated hydrologic model, referred to here as the “Borrego Valley Hydrologic Model” (BVHM), is a tool that can provide results with the accuracy needed for making water-management decisions, although potential future refinements and enhancements could further improve the level of spatial and temporal resolution and model accuracy. Because the model incorporates time-varying inflows and outflows, this tool can be used to evaluate the effects of temporal changes in recharge and pumping and to compare the relative effects of different water-management scenarios on the aquifer system. Overall, the development of the hydrogeologic and hydrologic models, data networks, and hydrologic analysis provides a basis for assessing surface and groundwater availability and potential water-resource management guidelines.

Suggested Citation

Faunt, C.C., Stamos, C.L., Flint, L.E., Wright, M.T., Burgess, M.K., Sneed, Michelle, Brandt, Justin, Martin, Peter, and Coes, A.L., 2015, Hydrogeology, hydrologic effects of development, and simulation of groundwater flow in the Borrego Valley, San Diego County, California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5150, 135 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155150.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Description of Study Area
  • Previous Studies
  • Hydrologic System
  • Hydrogeology
  • Groundwater-Quality Sampling and Wellbore Flow
  • Groundwater Quality and Age
  • Land Subsidence
  • Groundwater-Flow Models
  • Model Calibration
  • Hydrologic Flow Analysis
  • Future Groundwater-Management Scenarios
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrogeology, hydrologic effects of development, and simulation of groundwater flow in the Borrego Valley, San Diego County, California
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5150
DOI 10.3133/sir20155150
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description xiv, 135 p.
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Borrego Valley
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details