Groundwater-quality data in 12 GAMA study units: Results from the 2006–10 initial sampling period and the 2008–13 trend sampling period, California GAMA Priority Basin Project
Mathany, T.M., 2017, U.S. Geological Survey Data Series Report 1038
Related Study Unit(s): Bear Valley and Lake Arrowhead Watershed Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, Cascade Range and Modoc Plateau Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, Central Sierra Nevada Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, North Coast Ranges Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, San Francisco Bay Basins Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, Santa Barbara Coastal Plain Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, Sierra Nevada Region Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, South Coast Interior Basins Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, South Coast Range Coastal Basins Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply, Tahoe-Martis, Central Sierra, and Southern Sierra Groundwater Resources Used for Public Supply
The Priority Basin Project (PBP) of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) program was developed in response to the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 and is being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board. From 2004 through 2012, the GAMA-PBP collected samples and assessed the quality of groundwater resources that supply public drinking water in 35 study units across the State. Selected sites in each study unit were sampled again approximately 3 years after initial sampling as part of an assessment of temporal trends in water quality by the GAMA-PBP. Twelve of the study units, initially sampled during 2006–11 (initial sampling period) and sampled a second time during 2008–13 (trend sampling period) to assess temporal trends, are the subject of this report.
The initial sampling was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of the quality of untreated groundwater used for public water supplies in the 12 study units. In these study units, 550 sampling sites were selected by using a spatially distributed, randomized, grid-based method to provide spatially unbiased representation of the areas assessed (grid sites, also called “status sites”). After the initial sampling period, 76 of the previously sampled status sites (approximately 10 percent in each study unit) were randomly selected for trend sampling (“trend sites”). The 12 study units sampled both during the initial sampling and during the trend sampling period were distributed among 6 hydrogeologic provinces: Coastal (Northern and Southern), Transverse Ranges and Selected Peninsular Ranges, Klamath, Modoc Plateau and Cascades, and Sierra Nevada Hydrogeologic Provinces. For the purposes of this trend report, the six hydrogeologic provinces were grouped into two hydrogeologic regions based on location: Coastal and Mountain.
The groundwater samples were analyzed for a number of synthetic organic constituents (volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and pesticide degradates), constituents of special interest (perchlorate and 1,2,3-trichloropropane), and natural inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements). Isotopic tracers (tritium, carbon-14, and stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in water) also were measured to help identify processes affecting groundwater quality and the sources and ages of the sampled groundwater. More than 200 constituents and water-quality indicators were measured during the trend sampling period.
Quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, matrix-spikes, and surrogate compounds) were collected at about one-third of the trend sites, and the results for these samples were used to evaluate the quality of the data for the groundwater samples. On the basis of detections in laboratory and field blank samples collected by GAMA-PBP study units, including the 12 study units presented here, reporting levels for some groundwater results were adjusted in this report. Differences between replicate samples were mostly within acceptable ranges, indicating low variability in analytical results. Matrix-spike recoveries were largely within the acceptable range (70 to 130 percent).
This study did not attempt to evaluate the quality of water delivered to consumers. After withdrawal, groundwater used for drinking water typically is treated, disinfected, and blended with other waters to achieve acceptable water quality. The comparison benchmarks used in this report apply to treated water that is served to the consumer, not to untreated groundwater. To provide some context for the results, however, concentrations of constituents measured in these groundwater samples were compared with benchmarks established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California. Comparisons between data collected for this study and benchmarks for drinking water are for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of compliance or non-compliance with those benchmarks.
Most organic constituents that were detected in groundwater samples from the trend sites were found at concentrations less than health-based benchmarks. One volatile organic compound—perchloroethene—was detected at a concentration greater than the health-based benchmark in samples from one trend site during the initial and trend sampling periods. Chloroform was detected in at least 10 percent of the samples at trend sites in both sampling periods. Methyl tert-butyl ether was detected in samples from more than 10 percent of the trend sites during the initial sampling period. No pesticide or pesticide degradate was detected in greater than 10 percent of the samples from trend sites or at concentrations greater than their health-based benchmarks during either sampling period. Nutrients were not detected at concentrations greater than their health-based benchmarks during either sampling period.
Most detections of major ions and trace elements in samples from trend sites were less than health-based benchmarks during both sampling periods. Arsenic and boron each were detected at concentrations greater than the health-based benchmark in samples from four trend sites during the initial and trend sampling periods. Molybdenum was detected in samples from four trend sites at concentrations greater than the health-based benchmark during both sampling periods. Samples from two of these trend sites had similar molybdenum concentrations, and two had substantially different concentrations during the initial and trend sampling periods. Uranium was detected at a concentration greater than the health-based benchmark only at two trend sites.