Skip to main content
USGS - science for a changing world

2004 Mojave Region Water-Level Study

REGIONAL WATER TABLE (2004) AND WATER-LEVEL CHANGES IN THE MOJAVE RIVER AND MORONGO GROUNDWATER BASINS, SOUTHWESTERN MOJAVE DESERT, CALIFORNIA by Christina L. Stamos, Julia A. Huff, Steven K. Predmore, and Dennis A. Clark

Groundwter Levels

Static water-level measurements collected between March and April 2004 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Mojave Water Agency (MWA), and local water districts from about 710 wells were used to construct a regional water-table map, which shows the altitude of the water table and general direction of ground-water movement in the Mojave River and Morongo ground-water basins. Water-level contours from the 2002 water-level map (Stamos and others, 2004) were used as a guide to interpret the 2004 water-level contours in areas where 2004 water-level data were not available. In addition to being available on the interactive map (2004 water-level contours on interactive map), the 2004 water-level data and contours are shown on a PDF formatted plate. Historical water-level data were used in conjunction with data collected from this study to construct 35 water-level hydrographs to show both long-term (as early as 1930) and short-term (beginning in 1990) water-level changes in the Mojave River and Morongo ground-water basins. Water-level changes between spring 2002 and spring 2004 (on interactive map) were determined by comparing water levels measured in the same well during both periods.

Water-Level Changes

Historical water-level data were used in conjunction with data collected during this study to determine both long-term (1930–2004) and short-term (1992–2004) water-level changes in the Mojave River and Morongo ground-water basins. Long-term water-level changes are depicted by 26 water-level hydrographs (PDF formatted plate, hydrographs). Some hydrographs combine data from more than one well to show water-level changes over a greater period of time for a particular area. The long-term hydrographs for the Mojave River ground-water basin show that water levels have declined between 50 and 75 ft in the Alto subarea (location map) since the mid-1940s (well 5N/5W-22E1, -22E2, -22E6), about 75 ft in the Harper Lake region of the Centro subarea since the 1960s (well 11N/4W-29R1), and more than 100 ft in the Baja subarea since the early 1950s (well 9N/1E-10L1, -4K3). The long-term hydrographs for the Morongo ground-water basin show little or no change in most of the subbasins, but there have been significant water-level declines in five of the subbasins due to pumping. Water levels have declined about 40 ft in the Joshua Tree subbasin since the early 1960s (well 1N/7E-32C1), about 50 ft in the Reche subbasin since the early 1960s (well 2N/6E-18B1), about 100 ft in the Lucerne subbasin since the mid 1950s (well 5N/1W-25G1), about 150 ft in the Surprise Spring subbasin since the early 1950s (well 2N/7E-2C1), and more than 300 ft in the Warren subbasin between the mid 1940s and 1995 (well 1N/5W-36K1, -36K2) (location map). The rapid decline in some wells in the Warren subbasin has been reversed since 1995 because of artificial recharge to ponds at the Hi-Desert recharge sites.

Nine short-term hydrographs were constructed from data collected between 1992 and 2004 in the Mojave River ground-water basin (hydrographs) to record the effects of seasonal recharge and discharge along the river and the effects of evapotranspiration of riparian vegetation, which is minimal during winter. These short-term hydrographs show that, since 1992, there has been some recharge to the floodplain aquifer from stormflows in the Mojave River in the Alto and Centro subareas, but that there has been minimal recharge from stormflows in the Baja subarea. In the Transition zone, the ground-water levels in the vicinity of well 7N/5W-23R3 (PDF formatted plate) remained stable owing to recharge from treated wastewater that is discharged about 4 mi upstream by the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (location map).

A water-level change map (water-level change on interactive map) was prepared by comparing water levels from the same wells during spring 2002 and spring 2004; 334 wells had water-level data for both years in the study area. About one third (119) of the water levels in 2004 were within 0.5 ft of the water levels in 2002. One half (167) of the wells had water-level declines of 0.5 ft or more and about one tenth (48) of the wells had declines greater than 5 ft. Of the 179 wells compared within the Mojave River ground-water basin, more than one half (102) of the wells had water-level declines of 0.5 ft or more and almost one fifth (32) of the wells had declines greater than 5 ft. The water-level change data also show that about one tenth (17) of the wells compared in the Mojave River ground-water basin had water level increases of 0.5 ft or more. Most of these increases were the result of stormflow in the Mojave River during March 2004 which resulted in recharge to wells in the floodplain aquifer mainly along the river in the Alto subarea and the Transition zone and along the river east of Barstow (water-level change on interactive map). Some increases also occurred near Harper Lake (dry) (PDF formatted plate) where there has been a significant reduction in pumpage during the last decade (Stamos and others, 2001), resulting in steadily increasing water levels since the early 1990s.

Of the 138 wells compared within the Morongo ground-water basin, nearly one half (55) of the wells had water-level declines of 0.5 ft or more, and about one tenth (13) of the wells had declines greater than 5 ft. The water-level change data also show that about one tenth (13) of the wells compared had water level increases of 0.5 ft or more. (PDF formatted plate).


Report Cover of SIR2004-5187