A network of 74 randomly distributed domestic water-supply wells completed in the central High Plains aquifer was sampled and analyzed from April to August 1999 as part of the High Plains Regional Ground-Water Study conducted by the U. S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program to provide a broad-scale assessment of the ground-water-quality in this part of the High Plains aquifer.
Water properties were relatively consistent across the aquifer, with water being alkaline and well oxidized. Water was mostly of the calcium and magnesium-bicarbonate type and very hard. Sulfate concentrations in water from three wells and chloride concentration in water from one well exceeded Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels. Fluoride concentration was equal to the Maximum Contaminant Level in one sample. Nitrate concentrations was relatively small in most samples, with the median concentration of 2.3 milligrams per liter. Dissolved organic carbon concentration was relatively low, with a median concentration of 0.5 milligram per liter. The Maximum Contaminant Level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for nitrate as nitrogen of 10 milligrams per liter was exceeded by water samples from three wells. Most samples contained detectable concentrations of the trace elements aluminum, arsenic, barium, chromium, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, and uranium. Only a few samples had trace element concentrations exceeding Maximum Contaminant Levels. Fifty-five of the samples had radon concentrations exceeding the proposed Maximum Contaminant Level of 300 picocuries per liter. The greatest radon concentrations were detected where the Ogallala Formation overlies sandstones, shales and limestones of Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous age.
Volatile organic compounds were detected in 9 of 74 samples. Toluene was detected in eight of those nine samples. All volatile organic compound concentrations were substantially less than Maximum Contaminant Levels. Detections of toluene may have been artifacts of the sampling and analytical processes.
Pesticides were detected in 18 of the 74 water samples. None of the pesticide concentrations exceeded Maximum Contaminant Levels. The most frequently detected pesticides were atrazine and its metabolite deethylatrazine, which were detected in water from 15 and 17 wells, respectively. Most of the samples with a detectable pesticide had at least two detectable pesticides. Six of the samples had more than two detectable pesticides.
Tritium concentrations was greater than 0.5 tritium unit in 10 of 51 samples, indicating recent recharge to the aquifer. Twenty-one of the samples that had nitrate concentrations greater than 4.0 milligrams per liter were assumed to have components of recent recharge. Detection of volatile organic compounds was not associated with those indicators of recent recharge, with most of volatile organic compounds being detected in water from wells with small tritium and nitrate concentrations. Detection of pesticides was associated with greater tritium or nitrate concentrations, with 16 of the 18 wells producing water with pesticides also having tritium or nitrate concentrations indicating recent recharge.