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Data Series 408

Prepared in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board

Ground-Water Quality Data in the Santa Clara River Valley Study Unit, 2007: Results from the California GAMA Program

By Joseph Montrella and Kenneth Belitz

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.4 MB)ABSTRACT

Ground-water quality in the approximately 460-square-mile Santa Clara River Valley study unit (SCRV) was investigated from April to June 2007 as part of the statewide Priority Basin project of the Ground-Water Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA Priority Basin project was developed in response to the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 and is being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The study was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of the quality of raw ground water used for public water supplies within SCRV, and to facilitate a statistically consistent basis for comparing water quality throughout California. Fifty-seven ground-water samples were collected from 53 wells in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Forty-two wells were selected using a randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study area (grid wells). Eleven wells (understanding wells) were selected to further evaluate water chemistry in particular parts of the study area, and four depth-dependent ground-water samples were collected from one of the eleven understanding wells to help understand the relation between water chemistry and depth.

The ground-water samples were analyzed for a large number of synthetic organic constituents (volatile organic compounds [VOC], pesticides and pesticide degradates, potential wastewater-indicator compounds, and pharmaceutical compounds), a constituent of special interest (perchlorate), naturally occurring inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements), radioactive constituents, and microbial constituents. Naturally occurring isotopes (tritium, carbon-13, carbon-14 [abundance], stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in water, stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen in nitrate, chlorine-37, and bromine-81), and dissolved noble gases also were measured to help identify the source and age of the sampled ground water.

Quality-control samples (blanks or replicates, or samples for matrix spikes) were collected from approximately 26 percent of the wells, and the analyses of these samples were used to evaluate the quality of the data for the ground-water samples. Assessment of the quality-control results showed that the quality of the environmental data was good, with low bias and low variability, and as a result, less than 0.1 percent of the analytes detected in ground-water samples were censored.

This study did not attempt to evaluate the quality of water delivered to consumers; after withdrawal from the ground, water typically is treated, disinfected, and (or) blended with other waters to maintain acceptable water quality. Regulatory thresholds apply to treated water that is delivered (or, supplied) to the consumer, not to raw ground water. However, to provide some context for the results, concentrations of constituents measured in the raw ground water were compared with regulatory and non-regulatory thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and thresholds established for aesthetic concerns (secondary maximum contaminant levels, SMCL-CA) by CDPH.

Most constituents that were detected in ground-water samples were reported at concentrations below their established health-based thresholds. VOCs, pesticides and pesticide degradates, and potential wastewater-indicator compounds were detected in about 33 percent or less of the 42 SCRV grid wells. Concentrations of all detected organic constituents were below established health-based thresholds. Perchlorate was detected in approximately 12 percent of the SCRV grid wells; all concentrations reported were below the NL-CA threshold.

Additional constituents, including major ions, trace elements, and nutrients were collected at 26 wells (16 grid wells and 10 understanding wells) of the 53 wells sampled for the SCRV study. The concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) was reported above the upper SMCL-CA threshold in 18 of the 26 SCRV wells sampled for TDS. The concentration of sulfate was reported above the upper SMCL-CA threshold in 10 of 26 SCRV wells sampled for sulfate. Chloride was reported above the upper SMCL-CA threshold in 4 of 26 wells sampled for chloride; none of these 4 wells were used for public supply. The concentration of nitrite plus nitrate was reported above the health-based threshold in 5 of 26 SCRV wells sampled for nitrite plus nitrate. Iron and manganese were above their respective SMCL-US thresholds in 7 and 14 SCRV wells, respectively. The gross alpha radioactivity (72-hour count) for one SCRV grid well was slightly above the established health-based threshold, and the gross alpha radioactivity (30-day count) in one SCRV understanding well was slightly above the established health-based threshold. Activities of radon-222 in samples from six wells were above the proposed MCL-US, 300 pCi/L, but below the alternative MCL-US, 4,000 pCi/L.

For additional information contact:
California Water Science Center Director,
U.S. Geological Survey,
6000 J Street
Sacramento, California 95819
http://ca.water.usgs.gov

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Suggested citation:

Montrella, Joseph, and Belitz, Kenneth, 2009, Ground-water quality data in the Santa Clara River Valley study unit, 2007: Results from the California GAMA Program: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 408, 84 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Hydrogeologic Setting

Methods

Water-Quality Results

Summary

Acknowledgments

References Cited

Appendix


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