Link to USGS home page.

Potential for Formation of Disinfection By-Products from Storage of Chlorinated Surface Water in the Basalt Aquifer near Fallon, Nevada

By Miranda S. Fram, Douglas K. Maurer, and Michael S. Lico

Report availability: Portable Document Format (PDF).


Increased pumpage from a basalt aquifer near Fallon, Nevada, has caused its water levels to decline and has induced changes in the quality of water pumped from the basalt. The aquifer is the sole source of water for municipal supply to the city of Fallon, the Naval Air Station Fallon, and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. These changes may be mitigated by storage of surface water in the basalt for subsequent use. Because chlorination of the surface water may be required for storage, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, made laboratory tests using laboratory carbon-organic-free water, surface-water, ground-water, and basaltic-rock samples to determine the potential for formation of disinfection by-products.

Experiments with water samples only (no rock and no chlorine) indicated no change in dissolved-organic-carbon (DOC) concentrations over a 20-day reaction period; whereas, all experiments using rock, water, and no chlorine indicated an increase in DOC concentrations. The greatest increase in DOC concentrations for all three water samples occurred in experiments with the rock samples from outcrops on Rattlesnake Hill. Experiments with water only and chlorine yielded a total trihalomethane (THM) concentration of 97.4 g/L for the ground-water sample and 347 g/L for the surface-water sample.

Experiments with mixtures of water, rocks, and chlorine indicated that reactions with the rock consumed chlorine and released significant amounts of organic carbon from the rock, increasing the DOC concentration in the water. The organic carbon in the rocks likely is associated with the secondary clay minerals that line vesicles and fractures in the rocks. THM concentrations were greatest, from 335 to 909 g/L, for surface water equilibrated with rock samples from Rattlesnake Hill. However, the concentration of chlorine required to produce these high THM concentrations ranged from 18 to 84 mg/L.

The results of the experiments suggest that the amount of organic carbon released from the rocks during successive cycles of recharge, storage, and recovery of chlorinated surface water may be relatively small. The chlorine demand of the rocks is so large that all of the free chlorine in the entire volume of recharged water likely would be consumed by only a very small volume of the aquifer surrounding an injection well, or beneath an infiltration bed. The majority of the volume of the aquifer filled by the stored water likely would never come in contact with free chlorine, and the increases in concentration of DOC observed in these experiments likely would occur in a very small volume of the stored water. For this reason, increases in concentration of THMs for the entire volume of water stored also likely would be considerably less than those measured in these experiments. To test this hypothesis, additional laboratory experiments using varying levels of chlorination, varying lengths of reaction periods, and repeated cycles of chlorination would be useful. A field experiment made at a small scale in an isolated part of the basalt aquifer would aid in the design of an operational system.

Return to SIR 2005-5142 Home or the Table of Contents.

For more information about USGS activities in Nevada, visit the USGS Nevada District home page.