Storage Capacity and Sedimentation Characteristics of the San Antonio Reservoir, California, 2018

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5151
Prepared in cooperation with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
By: , and 



The San Antonio Reservoir is a large water storage facility in Alameda County, California, and is a major component of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System (RWS). The RWS is a water-supply system owned and operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and provides water for about 2.7 million people in the San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties. The San Antonio Reservoir is one of two RWS reservoirs in Alameda County and the third largest of the RWS reservoirs in the San Francisco Bay Area. The reservoir was formed by the James H. Turner Dam, which was completed in 1965. At the time of construction, the reservoir was estimated to have 50,500 acre-feet (acre-ft) of storage capacity. That early estimate was based on a 1963 pre-construction topographic map, which was drawn from aerial photographs. The capacity of the reservoir was later surveyed in 1994 and 2000. These two later surveys did not include the upper 18 feet (ft) of the reservoir, which represents roughly 30 percent of the overall storage volume. To determine the storage capacity and provide updated stage-capacity curves up to the spillway, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the SFPUC, surveyed the bathymetry and shoreline of the reservoir in April 2018.

The bathymetric survey was performed by making depth soundings using a boat-mounted, multibeam echosounder. At the time of the survey, the water level was between 13 and 14 ft below the spillway elevation. To measure capacity between the water line up to the spillway elevation, topography along most of the shoreline was surveyed from the boat using a terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner and in other areas by using ground-survey techniques. Location during bathymetric and topographic data collection was determined using a Global Navigation Satellite System-Real Time Network system. Vertical profiles of sound speed were collected periodically. The sound-speed profiles were used to spatially and temporally adjust the sound-speed calculations used to determine depth from the soundings. Approximately 125 kilometers (78 miles) of transects with a total of about 560 million depth soundings and topographic LiDAR points were collected (about 160 per square meter). In addition, approximately 500 topographic survey points were collected in shallow, wadable areas and on land near the upper reservoir area using a Global Navigation Satellite System receiver attached to a fixed length survey rod. Depth soundings, terrestrial LiDAR points, topographic survey points, and a digitized shoreline were merged and interpolated to generate a digital elevation model (DEM) of the reservoir. Gridded elevation data extracted from the DEM were then tabulated to determine total reservoir capacity and create reservoir stage-surface area and stage-storage capacity tables.

Results of the reservoir capacity analysis indicated that the reservoir has 53,266 (plus or minus 140) acre-ft of storage capacity, which is an increase of 2,766 acre-ft (or 5.5 percent) greater than the original 1965 estimate; the increase is likely due to improved survey methods. Also, at the time of this 2018 survey, Intake #1 (the lowest intake) was not in operation. Intake #1 is estimated to be buried approximately 10 ft below the bed, whereas Intake #2 is about 20 ft above the bed. There are five intakes at different elevation levels; however, when consecutive lower intakes become inoperable due to sedimentation, the live storage capacity (capacity available for use) is reduced. At the time of this survey, the remaining live storage (above Intake #2) was approximately 52,363 acre-ft.

The 2018 stage-capacity curve was compared to the original 1965 stage-capacity curve. Although overall, the changes indicate an increase in storage capacity, the change in volume at 372.7 ft North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (370 ft National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929, NGVD 29) shows a decrease of 733 acre-ft (the elevation of 370 ft NGVD 29 was used because it is the lowest elevation available for the 1965 stage-capacity curves). This finding agrees with the observed accumulation of sediment over Intake #1. That volume was converted to an annual sediment yield of 0.35 acre-ft per square mile (or 165 cubic meters per square kilometer), which is of the same order of magnitude as that found in other watersheds for the Coast Ranges in California. A decrease of 733 acre-ft between 1965 and 2018 thus represents a loss of 1.5 percent of the overall storage capacity in the reservoir. The updated stage-surface area and stage-capacity tables provided in this report and online ( can be used by the SFPUC to improve reservoir operations and serve as an accurate baseline to monitor bathymetric changes in the future.

Suggested Citation

Marineau, M.D., Wright, S.A, and Lopez, J.V., 2020, Storage capacity and sedimentation characteristics of the San Antonio Reservoir, California, 2018: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5151, 34 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data and Sample Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Results
  • Discussion of Reservoir Sedimentation
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Glossary

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Storage capacity and sedimentation characteristics of the San Antonio Reservoir, California, 2018
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5151
DOI 10.3133/sir20195151
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description Report: vi, 34 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial San Antonio Reservoir
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details