Simulation of Groundwater and Surface-Water Resources of the San Antonio Creek Valley Watershed, Santa Barbara County, California

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5139
Groundwater Availability and Use Assessments
Prepared in cooperation with Santa Barbara County Water Agency and Vandenberg Space Force Base
By: , and 



In the San Antonio Creek Valley watershed (SACVW), western Santa Barbara County, California, groundwater is the primary source of water for agricultural irrigation, the town of Los Alamos, and supplemental water to Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB). Groundwater pumpage has increased since the 1970s as non-irrigated agricultural land has been converted to irrigated land and as local pumping for municipal use has increased. This increase in groundwater use has resulted in declining groundwater levels, adjustments in surface-water flows and species habitats, and changes in water quality. Water managers are addressing the challenges of meeting this increased demand while maintaining sustainable groundwater supplies. To address these challenges, Santa Barbara County Water Agency, Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) undertook a cooperative study to characterize the integrated hydrologic system of the SACVW and develop tools to better understand and manage the groundwater system. The objectives of this study were to improve the understanding of the integrated hydrologic system and incorporate the understanding into an integrated groundwater and surface-water flow model that can be used to help manage the water resources in the SACVW.

The San Antonio Creek integrated model (SACIM) was developed using the USGS coupled groundwater and surface-water flow model to simulate the hydrologic system of the SACVW and provide annual and average water budgets for 1948–2018 water years. Results from the SACIM indicated that between 1948 and 2018, total groundwater from storage (storage depletion) for the period was 453,300 acre-feet (acre-ft). Agricultural pumpage was the largest discharge and accounted for a total of 1,020,000 acre-ft of groundwater. Increased pumpage since the mid-1980s (of which agricultural pumpage is the primary component) is tied to an increased rate of storage depletion and reduced rates of groundwater evapotranspiration and surface leakage (groundwater discharge to the surface and soil zone). The increased pumpage also reduced subsurface inflow to Barka Slough, resulting in a decline in upward flow through the underlying hydrogeologic units and surface leakage. In addition to quantifying historical changes in the integrated hydrologic system, the SACIM is a tool than can be used by water managers to evaluate the effects of different climatic and hydrologic conditions and management strategies.

Suggested Citation

Woolfenden, L.R., Engott, J.A., Larsen, J.D., and Cromwell, G., 2022, Simulation of groundwater and surface-water resources of the San Antonio Creek Valley Watershed, Santa Barbara County, California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5139, 76 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments  
  • Abstract  
  • Introduction  
  • Conceptual Model  
  • Simulation of Groundwater and Surface-Water Resources  
  • PRMS-Only Model Calibration and Model Fit  
  • Integrated Model Calibration  
  • Assessment of Integrated Model Fit  
  • Simulated Groundwater Budget  
  • Model Limitations  
  • Summary and Conclusions  
  • References Cited 
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Simulation of groundwater and surface-water resources of the San Antonio Creek Valley watershed, Santa Barbara County, California
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5139
DOI 10.3133/sir20215139
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description Report: xii, 76 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State California
County Santa Barbara County
Other Geospatial San Antonio Creek Valley watershed,
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details