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Circular 1337

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Water Quality in the High Plains Aquifer, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, 1999–2004

By Jason J. Gurdak, Peter B. McMahon, Kevin Dennehy, and Sharon L. Qi

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This report contains the major findings of a 1999–2004 assessment of water quality in the High Plains aquifer. It is one of a series of reports by the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program that present major findings for principal and other aquifers and major river basins across the Nation. In these reports, water quality is discussed in terms of local, regional, State, and national issues. Conditions in the aquifer system are compared to conditions found elsewhere and to selected national benchmarks, such as those for drinking-water quality.

This report is intended for individuals working with water-resource issues in Federal, State, or local agencies, universities, public interest groups, or the private sector. The information will be useful in addressing a number of current issues, such as drinking-water quality, the effects of agricultural practices on water quality, source-water protection, and monitoring and sampling strategies. This report is also for individuals who wish to know more about the quality of ground water in areas near where they live and how that water quality compares to the quality of water in other areas across the region and the Nation.

The water-quality conditions in the High Plains aquifer summarized in this report are discussed in greater detail in other reports that can be accessed in Appendix 1 of Detailed technical information, data and analyses, collection and analytical methodology, models, graphs, and maps that support the findings presented in this report in addition to reports in this series from other basins can be accessed from the national NAWQA Web site ( This report accompanies the detailed and technical report of water-quality conditions in the High Plains aquifer “Water-quality assessment of the High Plains aquifer, 1999–2004” (

Revised September 23, 2009

First posted June 2, 2009

For additional information contact:

Director, Colorado Water Science Center
United States Geological Survey
Box 25046, Mail Stop 415
Denver, CO 80225

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Gurdak, J.J., McMahon, P.B., Dennehy, K.F., and Qi, S.L., 2009, Water quality in the High Plains aquifer, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, 1999–2004: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1337, 63 p.



Introduction to this Report

Chapter 1 — Overview of Major Findings and Implications

Chapter 2 — Background on the Water Resource Beneath the High Plains

Chapter 3 — NAWQA Approach to Assessing Water Quality in the High Plains Aquifer

Chapter 4 — Quality of Water Near the Water Table—What Was Found, Where, and Why

Chapter 5 — Natural Processes and Human Activities Affecting the Quality of the Water as it Moves From the Water Table to the Resource Used for Drinking and Irrigation

Chapter 6 — Quality of the Resource Used for Drinking and Irrigation—What Was Found, Where, and Why

References Cited


Appendix 1 – Abbreviations and Acronyms

Appendix 2 – Study-Unit Design

Appendix 3 – High Plains Findings in a National Context


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