California Oil, Gas, and Groundwater Program

Publication: Reports and Papers


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Ball, L.B., Davis, T.A., Minsley, B.J., Gillespie, J.M., and Landon, M.K.


Water Resources Research, v. 56, issue 6



Salinity, a measure of salt concentration, can impact the potential use of groundwater. Salinity can be difficult to map using wells alone, especially where groundwater development has been limited in the past. Dissolved salts are excellent conductors of electricity, and resistivity measurements are commonly used to estimate salinity where wells are not available. Uncertainty in estimating salinity from resistivity data can be introduced into the interpretation by two sources: (1) how well we can estimate salinity from resistivity and (2) how accurately we can measure resistivity. We present a method for mapping salinity that accounts for both sources of uncertainty using regional‐scale, high‐resolution airborne geophysical data, leading to spatially comprehensive 3‐D maps of likely fresh (low salt) and saline (high salt) groundwater. The method is applied in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley of California adjacent to the Lost Hills and Belridge oil fields. Shallow groundwater is shown to have relatively high salinity in much of the study area, and a clay layer protects lower salinity water in the underlying Tulare aquifer. Leaking surface water canals have imported relatively fresh water into the area, resulting in fresher groundwater downgradient of the canals.