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Circular 1354

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters

Water Quality in the Principal Aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge Regions, Eastern United States, 1993–2009

By Bruce D. Lindsey, Tammy M. Zimmerman, Melinda J. Chapman, Charles A. Cravotta III, and Zoltan Szabo

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (68.5 MB)Overview

The aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge regions underlie an area with a population of more than 40 million people in 10 states. The suburban and rural population is large, growing rapidly, and increasingly dependent on groundwater as a source of supply, with more than 550 million gallons per day withdrawn from domestic wells for household use. Water from some of these aquifers does not meet human-health benchmarks for drinking water for contaminants with geologic or human sources. Water from samples in crystalline- and siliciclastic-rock aquifers frequently exceeded standards for contaminants with geologic sources, and samples in carbonate-rock aquifers frequently exceeded standards for contaminants with human sources, most often nitrate and bacteria.

Major Findings

  • Many contaminants in groundwater have geologic sources, but geochemical conditions control whether or not those contaminants dissolve and move through groundwater
  • Concentrations of nitrate and bacteria—the main drinking-water contaminants with human sources—were high in carbonate-rock aquifers and frequently exceeded human-health benchmarks
  • Large contributions of nitrate and phosphorus from groundwater to streams have a negative effect on ecological health of estuaries, such as the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle-Pamlico Sound

Summary Report for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program Principal Aquifers Series, "The Quality of Our Nation's Waters—"

Circular 1360—Water Quality in Principal Aquifers of the United States, 1991–2010

Companion Reports

Circular 1337—Water Quality in the High Plains Aquifer, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, 1999–2004

Circular 1352—Water Quality in the Glacial Aquifer System, Northern United States, 1993–2009

Circular 1353—Water Quality in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Surficial Aquifer System, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, 1988–2009

Circular 1354—Water Quality in the Principal Aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge Regions, Eastern United States, 1993–2009

Circular 1355—Water Quality in the Upper Floridan Aquifer and Overlying Surficial Aquifers, Southeastern United States, 1993–2010

Circular 1356—Water Quality in the Mississippi Embayment–Texas Coastal Uplands Aquifer System and Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer, South-Central United States, 1994–2008

Circular 1357—Water Quality in the Denver Basin Aquifer System, Colorado, 2003–05

Circular 1358—Water Quality in Basin-Fill Aquifers of the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, 1993–2009

Circular 1359—Groundwater Quality in the Columbia Plateau and Snake River Plain Basin-Fill and Basaltic-Rock Aquifers and the Hawaiian Volcanic-Rock Aquifers, Washington, Idaho, and Hawaii, 1993–2005

First posted January 21, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Chief, National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program 
U.S. Geological Survey
413 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Lindsey, B.D., Zimmerman, T.M., Chapman, M.J., Cravotta, C.A., III, and Szabo, Zoltan, 2014, The quality of our Nation’s waters—Water quality in the Principal Aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge regions, eastern United States, 1993–2009: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1354, 107 p.,

ISSN 1067–084X (print)

ISSN 2330–5703 (online)


Chapter 1: Overview of Major Findings and Implications

Chapter 2: NAWQA Approach to Assessing Water Quality in the Principal Aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge Regions

Chapter 3: Environmental and Hydrogeologic Setting

Chapter 4: Physical and Geochemical Processes Affect Groundwater Quality

Chapter 5: Quality of the Groundwater Resource Used for Drinking Water

Chapter 6: Constituents From Geologic Sources

Chapter 7: Contaminants Associated With Human Activities

Chapter 8: Can Discharge of Nutrients from Groundwater Impair the Health of Streams and Estuaries?

References Cited



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