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Minimum Depth to Groundwater for the Coastal San Francisco Bay Area


Plane, Ellen; Hill, Kristina (2017), Minimum Depth to Groundwater for the Coastal San Francisco Bay Area, v7, UC Berkeley Dash, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.6078/D1W01Q


This dataset shows estimated values for minimum depth to groundwater in the coastal Bay Area. The estimation is based on an interpolation that uses ground elevation data and minimum depth to water values measured at monitoring wells in the nine Bay Area counties over the past 20 years.


Well data:

California State Water Control Board: GAMA GeoTracker. http://geotracker.waterboards.ca.gov/data_download_by_county.

Ground elevation data:

U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program https://topotools.cr.usgs.gov/coned/sanfrancisco.php. 2m Digital Elevation Model (DEM).

SF Bay extent (includes open water and tidal wetlands):

San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI): Bay Area Aquatic Resource Inventory (BAARI). http://www.sfei.org/baari#sthash.AZdz9gDM.yexzxDn5.dpbs.


File format: TIFF.

Cellsize: 6.56ft (2m).

Linear unit: Feet.

Z unit: Feet.

Projected Coordinate System: NAD_1983_2011_StatePlane_California_III_FIPS_0403_Ft_US.

Geographic Coordinate System: GCS_NAD_1983_2011.


We downloaded well depth to water and well location files from the CA State Water Board GeoTracker database for each of the nine Bay Area counties. We concatenated “Global ID” and “Field Point Name” to create a unique ID for each well in the database, then calculated the minimum depth to water value for each well for the years 1996-2016 (any measurements before 1996 were excluded). If a well had no recorded measurements for depth to water, we eliminated it from the analysis. If the minimum depth to water was a negative value (artesian wells), we changed the negative to zero, indicating a groundwater level at the ground surface.

We joined coordinates from the latitude/longitude table to the well table for each well ID. For wells within one mile of the SFEI Bay/tidal wetlands file, we calculated maximum water table elevation by extracting a ground elevation from the 2m USGS digital elevation model (DEM) at each well point, then subtracting the minimum depth to water value from this ground elevation.

To create a water table surface, we interpolated using a multiquadric radial basis function. Using cross-validation, we were able to determine that this method produced the lowest error values relative to other deterministic interpolation methods (inverse distance weighting, global polynomial interpolation, and other radial basis functions).

We subtracted the interpolated water table surface from the ground surface DEM to produce a depth to water map. Results are shown within one kilometer of the bay, a distance used in other studies of sea level rise-induced coastal aquifer forcing (see Rotzoll and Fletcher, 2012).

Wells are not evenly distributed across the bay shorefront; we excluded areas greater than 1km from the nearest well due to the uncertainty introduced by the lack of sample points in these areas.

The interpolation and subtraction method we used produced some negative values for depth to water, indicating water above the ground surface, especially in areas where there were no well sample points at the base of a slope or in a valley. In the provided data files, we have changed these negative values to zero for clarity.

Usage Notes

Note: results shown only for areas within 1km of well points in the dataset. If data is missing for a coastal location, this does not indicate anything about the water table at that location, but rather a lack of available data. Please reference the shapefile included in the NoDataZones folder for areas within 1km of the Bay but excluded from the output for this reason.