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U.S. Geological Survey USGS Open-File Report 2011–1198

In cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Arizona Department of Water Resources

Groundwater, Surface-Water, and Water-Chemistry Data, Black Mesa Area, Northeastern Arizona—2009–10

By Jamie P. Macy and Christopher R. Brown

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (6.8 MB)Abstract

The Navajo (N) aquifer is an extensive aquifer and the primary source of groundwater in the 5,400-square-mile Black Mesa area in northeastern Arizona. Availability of water is an important issue in northeastern Arizona because of continued water requirements for industrial and municipal use by a growing population and because of low precipitation in the arid climate of the Black Mesa area. Precipitation in the area is typically between 6 and 14 inches per year.

The U.S. Geological Survey water-monitoring program in the Black Mesa area began in 1971 and provides information about the long-term effects of groundwater withdrawals from the N aquifer for industrial and municipal uses. This report presents results of data collected as part of the monitoring program in the Black Mesa area from January 2009 to September 2010. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals, (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater chemistry.

In 2009, total groundwater withdrawals were 4,230 acre-ft, industrial withdrawals were 1,390 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 2,840 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2009 were about 42 percent less than total withdrawals in 2005 because of Peabody Western Coal Company’s discontinued use of water in a coal slurry used for transporting coal. From 2008 to 2009 total withdrawals increased by 3 percent and industrial withdrawals increased by approximately 15 percent, but total municipal withdrawals decreased by 2 percent.

From 2009 to 2010, annually measured water levels in the Black Mesa area declined in 7 of 16 wells that were available for comparison in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer, and the median change was 0.1 foot. Water levels declined in 12 of 18 wells measured in the confined area of the aquifer. The median change for the confined area of the aquifer was −0.3 foot. From the prestress period (prior to 1965) to 2010, the median water-level change for 34 wells in both the confined and unconfined area was −13.9 feet. Also, from the prestress period to 2009, the median water-level changes were −0.8 foot for 16 wells measured in the unconfined areas and −38.7 feet for 18 wells measured in the confined area.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2010. Flow fluctuated during the period of record, but a decreasing trend was apparent at Moenkopi School Spring and Pasture Canyon Spring. Discharge at Burro Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso has remained relatively constant since they were first measured in the 1980s.

Continuous records of surface-water discharge in the Black Mesa area were collected from streamflow-gaging stations at the following sites: Moenkopi Wash at Moenkopi 09401260 (1976 to 2009), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2009), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2009), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2009). Median winter flows (November through February) of each water year were used as an index of the amount of groundwater discharge at the above-named sites. For the period of record of each streamflow-gaging station, the median winter flows have generally remained constant, which suggests no change in groundwater discharge.

In 2010, water samples collected from 11 wells and 4 springs in the Black Mesa area were analyzed for selected chemical constituents, and the results were compared with previous analyses. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate have varied at all 11 wells for the period of record, but neither increasing nor decreasing trends over time were found. Dissolved-solids, chloride, and sulfate concentrations increased at Moenkopi School Spring during the more than 12 years of record at that site. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Pasture Canyon Spring have not varied much since the early 1980s, and there is no increasing or decreasing trend in those data. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Burro Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso have varied for the period of record, but there is no increasing or decreasing trend in the data.

  • This report is available only on the Web.

For additional information contact:
Office information, Arizona Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
520 N. Park Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85719

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Suggested citation:

Macy, J.P., and Brown, C.R., 2011, Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2009–10: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1198, 42 p., available at




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