Subsurface Water Flux in California's Central Valley and Its Source Watershed From Space Geodesy

Donald F. Argus, Hilary R. Martens, Adrian A. Borsa, Ellen Knappe, David N. Wiese, Sarfaraz Alam, Mackenzie Anderson, Ashlesha Khatiwada, Nicholas Lau, Athina Peidou, Matthew Swarr, Alissa M. White, Machiel S. Bos, Matthias Ellmer, Felix W. Landerer, W. Payton Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We integrate Global Positioning System displacements, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment gravity data, reservoir water volumes, and snowpack to estimate change in subsurface water in California. We find 29% of precipitation infiltrates mountain soil and fractured bedrock each autumn and winter and is lost in the spring and summer by evapotranspiration and lateral subsurface flow either within mountain watersheds or into California's Central Valley. The Central Valley lost groundwater at 2.2 ± 0.7 km3/yr from 2006 to 2021, with 68% of the loss occurring in the southern third of the Valley. Water in Central Valley fluctuates each year by a mean of 10.7 ± 1.1 km3 with maximum water in April (not August). A third of Central Valley groundwater lost during recent severe drought is recharged during subsequent years of heavy precipitation. Of the 50 km3 of water entering Central Valley each year, 28 km3 comes from rivers, 17 km3 from precipitation, and 5 km3 from mountain groundwater.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL099583
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 28 2022


  • Central Valley
  • GPS
  • groundwater
  • recharge
  • subsurface water


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