Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Dr. Misgana Muleta


The San Joaquin Valley is regarded as one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. This extensive agriculture has, however, caused extensive pollution of both ground water and surface water. This thesis develops a hydrologic model of the surface and ground waters of the San Joaquin Valley. Such modeling is useful in the development and implementation of water quality regulations such as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). A properly validated watershed simulation model can supplement data collection and can account for watershed characteristics including topography, soils, climate, land cover, anthropogenic activities, as well as simulate watershed responses including streamflow and contaminant concentration at detailed spatial and temporal scales. Models can be used as a decision support tool to manage complex agricultural watersheds such as the San Joaquin Valley. Once developed, such watershed simulation models can be used to identify contaminant source areas, locate hot-spot areas that have high pollution risk, identify optimal monitoring sites, and determine best management practices to cost-effectively reduce pollution. As a step towards developing a model as a decision making tool, the objective of this study is to appraise effectiveness of a widely used watershed simulation model known as Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to simulate hydrology of the San Joaquin Valley watershed. For this thesis SWAT was successfully calibrated for streamflow at several locations in the watershed, thus demonstrating the capability of the model to represent the complex, snow-driven hydrology of the San Joaquin Valley watershed including dams and reservoirs located in the mountains, and agricultural activities and flow diversion systems in the valleys. Calibration of sediment and nitrate loadings in the surface waters were also attempted; the results were, however, less than convincing compared to stream flow calibration. Future studies are recommended to improve accuracy of the water quality predictions and to evaluate long-term effectiveness of various watershed management policies in improving surface water and groundwater quality in the San Joaquin Valley. The hydrology model developed in this study can be used as a foundation for future studies that focus on water quality.