Groundwater, Surface-Water, and Water-Chemistry Data, Black Mesa Area, Northeastern Arizona—2018–2019

Open-File Report 2022-1086
Prepared in cooperation with the Navajo Nation and Peabody Western Coal Company



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. Water availability is an important issue in the Black Mesa area because of the arid climate, past industrial water use, and continued water requirements for municipal use by a growing population. Precipitation in the area typically ranges from less than 6 to more than 16 inches per year depending on location.

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 calendar year 2019, and additionally uses streamflow statistics from November and December 2018. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals (pumping), (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater chemistry.

In calendar year 2019, total groundwater withdrawals were estimated to be 3,070 acre-feet (acre-ft), industrial withdrawals were 670 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were estimated to be 2,400 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2019 were about 58 percent less than total withdrawals in 2005 because of Peabody Western Coal Company’s discontinued use of water to transport coal in a coal slurry pipeline after 2005 and cessation of mining operations in 2019.

Water levels measured in 2019 from wells completed in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer within the Black Mesa area showed a decline in 10 of 16 wells when compared with water levels from the prestress period (prior to 1965). The changes in water levels across all 16 wells ranged from +8.2 feet (ft) to −40.0 ft, and the median change was −1.7 ft. Water levels also showed decline in 16 of 18 wells measured in the confined area of the aquifer when compared to the prestress period. The median change for the confined area of the aquifer was −38.8 ft, with changes across all 18 wells ranging from +12.9 ft to −185.0 ft.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2019. Flow fluctuated during the period of record for Burro Spring and Pasture Canyon Spring, but a decreasing trend was statistically significant (p<0.05) at Moenkopi School Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso. Discharge at Burro Spring has remained relatively constant since it was first measured in the 1980s and discharge at Pasture Canyon Spring has fluctuated for the period of record.

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 2019), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2019), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2019), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2019). Median winter flows (November through February) of each winter were used as an estimate of the amount of groundwater discharge at the above-named sites. For the period of record, the median winter flows have generally remained constant at Polacca Wash and Pasture Canyon Springs, whereas a decreasing trend was indicated at Moenkopi Wash and Dinnebito Wash.

In 2019, water samples collected from four springs and three wells in the Black Mesa area were analyzed for selected chemical constituents. Results from the four springs were compared with previous analyses from the same springs. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate increased at Moenkopi School Spring during the more than 30 years of record at that site. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Pasture Canyon Spring have not varied significantly (p>0.05) since the early 1980s, and there is no increasing or decreasing trend in those data. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso have varied for the period of record, but there is no statistical trend in the data. Concentrations of dissolved solids and chloride at Burro Spring have varied for the period of record, but there is no statistical trend in the data; however, concentrations of sulfate from Burro Spring now show a trend towards lower concentrations. No statistical trend tests were performed for the three wells sampled in 2019 since less historical water-quality data were available for comparison.

Suggested Citation

Mason, J.P., 2022, Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2018–2019: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2022–1086, 47 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract 
  • Introduction 
  • Description of Study Area 
  • Hydrologic Data 
  • Summary 
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2018–2019
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2022-1086
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221086
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Description vii, 47 p.
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Black Mesa area
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details