• drought simulation;
  • surface-ground-water response;
  • pumping

Abstract:  A series of drought simulations were performed for the California Central Valley using computer applications developed by the California Department of Water Resources and historical datasets representing a range of droughts from mild to severe for time periods lasting up to 60 years. Land use, agricultural cropping patterns, and water demand were held fixed at the 2003 level and water supply was decreased by amounts ranging between 25 and 50%, representing light to severe drought types. Impacts were examined for four hydrologic subbasins, the Sacramento Basin, the San Joaquin Basin, the Tulare Basin, and the Eastside Drainage. Results suggest the greatest impacts are in the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins, regions that are heavily irrigated and are presently overdrafted in most years. Regional surface water diversions decrease by as much as 70%. Stream-to-aquifer flows and aquifer storage declines were proportional to drought severity. Most significant was the decline in ground water head for the severe drought cases, where results suggest that under these scenarios the water table is unlikely to recover within the 30-year model-simulated future. However, the overall response to such droughts is not as severe as anticipated and the Sacramento Basin may act as ground-water insurance to sustain California during extended dry periods.