Water-Quality Data

Ground-water quality data in the Coachella Valley study unit, 2007: Results from the California GAMA Program

Goldrath, Dara, Wright, Michael T., and Belitz, Kenneth, 2009, U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 373, 70 p.

Related Study Unit(s): Coachella Valley Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply

Ground-water quality in the approximately 820 square-mile Coachella Valley Study Unit (COA) was investigated during February and March 2007 as part of the Priority Basin Project of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA Priority Basin Project was developed in response to the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001, and is being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The study was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of raw ground water used for public-water supplies within the Coachella Valley, and to facilitate statistically consistent comparisons of ground-water quality throughout California. Samples were collected from 35 wells in Riverside County. Nineteen of the wells were selected using a spatially distributed, randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study unit (grid wells). Sixteen additional wells were sampled to evaluate changes in water chemistry along selected ground-water flow paths, examine land use effects on ground-water quality, and to collect water-quality data in areas where little exists. These wells were referred to as “understanding wells.”

The ground-water samples were analyzed for a large number of organic constituents (volatile organic compounds [VOC], pesticides and pesticide degradates, pharmaceutical compounds, and potential wastewater-indicator compounds), constituents of special interest (perchlorate and 1,2,3-trichloropropane [1,2,3-TCP]), naturally occurring inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements), radioactive constituents, and microbial indicators. Naturally occurring isotopes (uranium, tritium, carbon-14, and stable isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen, and boron), and dissolved noble gases (the last in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) also were measured to help identify the source and age of the sampled ground water.

A quality-control sample (blank, replicate, or matrix spike) was collected at approximately one quarter 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 information resulted in V-coding less than 0.1 percent of the data collected.

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 supplied 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 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and thresholds established for aesthetic purposes (secondary maximum contaminant levels, SMCL-CA) by CDPH.

Most constituents detected in ground-water samples were at concentrations below drinking-water thresholds. Volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and pesticide degradates were detected in less than one-third of the grid well samples collected. All VOC and pesticide concentrations measured were below health-based thresholds. Potential waste-water indicators were detected in less than half of the wells sampled, and no detections were above health-based thresholds. Perchlorate was detected in seven grid wells; concentrations from two wells were above the CDPH maximum contaminant level (MCL-CA). Most detections of trace elements in samples collected from COA Study Unit wells were below water-quality thresholds. Exceptions include five samples of arsenic that were above the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL-US), two detections of boron above the CDPH notification level (NL-CA), and two detections of molybdenum and strontium above USEPA maximum contaminant levels (HAL-US). Concentrations of nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen in two understanding well samples were above the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL-US). Activities of radon-222 in samples from seven wells were above the proposed MCL-US of 300 pCi/L; however, no samples had an activity above the proposed alternative MCL-US of 4,000 pCi/L. Most samples collected in the COA Study Unit had concentrations of major ions and total dissolved solids below the non-enforceable thresholds set for aesthetic purposes. Major ions detected at concentrations above the SMCL-CA thresholds included chloride, fluoride, sulfate, manganese, and total dissolved solids.