Monitoring and modeling very large, rapid infiltration using geophysics during the 2014 Lower Colorado River pulse flow experiment

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jamie P Macy1, Jeff Kennedy1, James B Callegary1 and Jaime Reyes Lopez2, (1)USGS Arizona Water Science Center, Tucson, AZ, United States, (2)Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Mexicali, Mexico
In March and April 2014, an unprecedented experiment released over 100x106 cubic meters (81,000 acre-feet) of water from Morelos Dam into the normally-dry lower Colorado River below Yuma, Arizona, USA. More than half of the water released from Morelos Dam infiltrated within the limitrophe reach, a 32-km stretch between the Northern U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and the Southern International Boundary, a distance of just 32 river-kilometers. To characterize the spatial and temporal extent of infiltration, scientists from the US Geological Survey, Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Baja California, and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California carried out several geophysical surveys. Frequency-domain electromagnetic transects throughout the limitrophe reach showed that the subsurface comprised exclusively sandy material, with little finer-grained material to impede or otherwise influence infiltration. Direct current resistivity clearly imaged the rising water table near the stream channel. Both techniques provide valuable parameterization and calibration information for a surface-water/groundwater interaction model currently in development. Time-lapse gravity data were collected at 25 stations to expand the monitoring well network and provide storage-coefficient information for the groundwater model. Despite difficult field conditions, precise measurements of large gravity changes showed that changes in groundwater storage in the upper reach of the study area, where groundwater levels were highest, were constrained to the near vicinity of the river channel. Downstream near the Southern International Boundary, however, groundwater storage increased substantially over a large area, expanding into the regional aquifer that supplies irrigation water to surrounding agriculture.