Cuyama Valley

Cuyama Valley Water Availability Video Transcript

[Intro Music]

Announcer: The Cuyama Valley is located in central California, northeast of Santa Barbara. The water supply for residential use, ranching, agriculture and oil and gas production come solely from groundwater. Groundwater pumping has caused water table levels to drop over the last several decades and there is concern about its sustainability for future use.

To better manage this important resource, a clear understanding of the aquifer system in the valley is vital. So, the Santa Barbara County Water Agency and the US Geological Survey are conducting a new study of the region.

Dennis Gibbs: One of the main missions of Santa Barbara County Water Agency is to promote and protect an adequate water supply, not only for agricultural uses, but also for domestic and municipal usage. Therefore the water agency was commissioned to do this study of water availability in the Cuyama groundwater basin.


The Cuyama groundwater basin is a sole source aquifer -- that is, it relies completely on groundwater for water supply in that area. There is no State Water Project deliveries. There are no surface water supplies like reservoirs. There's no desalination. A hundred percent of water usage in the Cuyama Basin comes from groundwater.

Water level declines of up to 200 to 250 feet have occurred in many areas of the groundwater basin and many of the residents and users of the groundwater basin are concerned about their future water supply.

Announcer: Many tests go into a regional scientific study of this sort. Existing data about the Cuyama Valley, such as land use, geology, geophysics, well logs, water levels and water quality will all be collected and placed into a single computer database which is organized by exact geographic location in the valley.


Randy Hanson : Well, we're scheduled right now for four years and that includes the drilling, data collection, analysis and building our geologic model. The rainfall runoff or precipitation runoff model and then finally the hydrologic model of the valley floor itself will all take place in 4 years.

We're also drilling some deep exploration wells to look at the three-dimensional aspects of the water pressures in the aquifers. We can also be looking at water quality, water chemistry, the age of the waters. We'll be able to see if there's any possibility at all, if we're seeing any recharge effects from the river flowing by here, even just during storm events or whatnot. So, it's kind of a nice location.

We're able to explore deep, down to a thousand feet as our target depth. Maybe we'll also be able to see the effects of agriculture right here and of the river right here. So, in that sense, it's a nice location to be drilling.


Announcer: USGS drilling exploration is a critical component of USGS scientific research. Drilling operations for this study will occur at three locations. At each location, multiple wells will be installed at different depths in the aquifer, providing a better understanding of the whole groundwater system. During drilling, samples of earth or drill cuttings will be collected. These cuttings will be analyzed and compared with geophysical data gathered during the drilling process, which will provide a clearer understanding of the aquifer system below.

Dennis Gibbs : When we evaluated our options, we chose to work with the USGS because their stamp on a groundwater report has the highest level of credibility and the highest level of non-bias. We think that the USGS provides that for us.

Announcer: The Santa Barbara County Water Agency, US Geological Survey study will provide a greater understanding of groundwater movement, inflow and outflows and the quantity and quality of water in the Cuyama Valley. This understanding is vital so that the community can provide and steward this important resource for generations to come.


Randy Hanson : It would be great to help these people kind of figure out how to steward the resource in a way that they can continue to enjoy living here and prosper and be able to do their activities. So, that's our goal.

[Ending Music]


Prepared in cooperation with Santa Barbara County Water Agency

Santa Barbara County Water Agency logo


Randy Hanson
Project Chief, Research Hydrologist
U.S. Geological Survey
California Water Science Center
4165 Spruance Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101

Claudia C. Faunt, Ph.D., P.E.
U.S. Geological Survey
California Water Science Center
4165 Spruance Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101

Dennis Gibbs
Senior Hydrologist
Santa Barbara County Public Works Department
620 West Foster Road
Santa Maria, CA 93455
(805) 739-8781