Arizona Water Science Center

Prepared in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Tucson Water, Pima County, the Town of Oro Valley, and Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District

U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5275
version 1.0

Ground-Water Storage Change and Land Subsidence in Tucson Basin and Avra Valley, Southeastern Arizona, 1998–2002

By Donald R. Pool and Mark T. Anderson


map showing that the study area is in south-central Ariona
Study area and network of ground-water storage monitoring stations within the Tucson Active Management Area, Pima and Pinal Counties, Arizona (from figure 1).


Gravity and land subsidence were measured annually at wells and benchmarks within two networks in Tucson Basin and Avra Valley from 1998 to 2002. Both networks are within the Tucson Active Management Area. Annual estimates of ground-water storage change, ground-water budgets, and land subsidence were made based on the data. Additionally, estimates of specific yield were made at wells within the monitored region. Increases in gravity and water-level rises followed above-average natural recharge during winter 1998 in Tucson Basin. Overall declining gravity and water-level trends from 1999 to 2002 in Tucson Basin reflected general declining ground-water storage conditions and redistribution of the recent recharge throughout a larger region of the aquifer. The volume of stored ground-water in the monitored portion of Tucson Basin increased 200,000 acre-feet from December 1997 to February 1999; however, thereafter an imbalance in ground-water pumpage in excess of recharge led to a net storage loss for the monitoring period by February 2002. Ground-water storage in Avra Valley increased 70,000 acre-feet during the monitoring period, largely as a result of artificial and incidental recharge in the monitored region. The water-budget for the combined monitored regions of Tucson Basin and Avra Valley was dominated by about 460,000 acre-feet of recharge during 1998 followed by an average-annual recharge rate of about 80,000 acre-feet per year from 1999 to 2002. Above-average recharge during winter 1998, followed by average-annual deficit conditions, resulted in an overall balanced water budget for the monitored period. Monitored variations in storage compared well with simulated average-annual conditions, except for above-average recharge from 1998 to 1999. The difference in observed and simulated conditions indicate that ground-water flow models can be improved by including climate-related variations in recharge rates rather than invariable rates of average-annual recharge. Observed land-subsidence during the monitoring period was less than 1 inch except in the central part of Tucson Basin where land subsidence was about 2–3 inches.

Correlations of gravity-based storage and water-level change at 37 wells were variable and illustrate the complex nature of the aquifer system. Storage and water-level variations were insufficient to estimate specific yield at many wells. Correlations at several wells were poor, inverse, or resulted in unreasonably large values of specific yield. Causes of anomalously correlated gravity and water levels include significant storage change in thick unsaturated zones, especially near major ephemeral channels, and multiple aquifers that are poorly connected hydraulically. Good correlation of storage and water-level change at 10 wells that were not near major streams where significant changes in unsaturated zone storage occur resulted in an average specific-yield value of 0.27.

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For questions about the content of this report, contact Donald Pool.

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