Water-Quality Data

Ground-water quality in the approximately 1,695-square-mile Central Eastside study unit (CESJO) was investigated from March through June 2006 as part of the Statewide Basin Assessment Project of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA Statewide Basin Assessment project was developed in response to the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 and is being conducted by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The study was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of raw ground-water quality within CESJO, as well as a statistically consistent basis for comparing water quality throughout California. Samples were collected from 78 wells in Merced and Stanislaus Counties. Fifty-eight of the 78 wells were selected using a randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study unit (grid wells). Twenty of the wells were selected to evaluate changes in water chemistry along selected lateral or vertical ground-water flow paths in the aquifer (flow-path wells).

The ground-water samples were analyzed for a large number of synthetic organic constituents [volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gasoline oxygenates and their degradates, pesticides and pesticide degradates], constituents of special interest [perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), and 1,2,3-trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP)], inorganic constituents that can occur naturally [nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements], radioactive constituents, and microbial indicators. Naturally occurring isotopes [tritium, carbon-14, and uranium isotopes and stable isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon], and dissolved noble and other gases also were measured to help identify the source and age of the sampled ground water.

Quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, samples for matrix spikes) were collected for approximately one-sixth of the wells, and the results for 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 environmental data were of good quality, with low bias and low variability, and resulted in censoring of less than 0.3 percent of the detections found in ground-water samples.

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 served 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 health-based thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and California Department of Public Health (CADPH) and thresholds established for aesthetic concerns (secondary maximum contaminant levels, SMCL-CA) by CADPH.

VOCs and pesticides were detected in approximately half of the grid wells, and all detections in samples from CESJO wells were below health-based thresholds. All detections of nutrients and major elements in grid wells also were below health-based thresholds. Most detections of constituents of special interest, trace elements, and radioactive constituents in samples from grid wells were below health-based thresholds. Exceptions included two detections of arsenic that were above the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL-US), one detection of lead above the USEPA action level (AL-US), and one detection of vanadium and three detections of 1,2,3-TCP that were above the CADPH notification levels (NL-CA). All detections of radioactive constituents were below health-based thresholds, although fourteen samples had activities of radon-222 above the lower proposed MCL-US. Most of the samples from CESJO grid wells had concentrations of major elements, total dissolved solids, and trace elements below the non-enforceable thresholds set for aesthetic concerns. A few samples contained manganese or total dissolved solids at concentrations above the SMCL-CA thresholds.