Water-Quality Data

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 (USGS) in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). From May 2004 to March 2012, the GAMA-PBP collected samples from more than 2,300 wells in 35 study units across the State. Selected wells 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. This triennial (every 3 years) trend sampling of GAMA-PBP study units concluded in December 2013. Fifteen of the study units, initially sampled between January 2006 and June 2010 and sampled a second time between April 2009 and April 2013 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 15 study units. In these study units, 730 wells were selected by using a spatially distributed, randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the areas assessed (grid wells, also called “status wells”). Approximately 3 years after the initial sampling, 93 of the previously sampled status wells (approximately 10 percent in each study unit) were randomly selected for trend sampling (“trend wells”). The 15 study units sampled for trends were distributed among 4 hydrogeologic provinces: Central Valley, Basin and Range, Desert, and Transverse and selected Peninsular Ranges.

The total number of status wells sampled, along with those sampled again for trends, varied by study unit. In the Central Valley hydrogeologic province, the numbers of status wells and trend wells in each study unit were as follows:

  • Kern County subbasin study unit—47 status wells, 5 trend wells
  • Central Eastside San Joaquin Basin study unit—58 status wells, 6 trend wells
  • Middle Sacramento Valley study unit—71 status wells, 8 trend wells
  • Northern Sacramento Valley study unit—43 status wells, 4 trend wells
  • Madera–Chowchilla study unit—30 status wells, 4 trend wells
  • Western San Joaquin Valley study unit—39 status wells, 4 trend wells.
  • The Basin and Range hydrogeologic province had only one study unit:
  • Owens and Indian Wells Valleys study unit—53 status wells, 6 trend wells.
  • In the Desert hydrogeologic province, the numbers of wells were as follows:
  • Coachella Valley study unit—19 status wells 4 trend wells
  • Colorado River study unit—20 status wells, 3 trend wells
  • Antelope Valley study unit—56 status wells, 6 trend wells
  • Mojave study unit—52 status wells, 7 trend wells
  • Borrego Valley, Central Desert and Low-Use Basins of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts study unit—49 status wells, 6 trend wells.

In the Transverse and Selected Peninsular Ranges hydrogeologic province, the numbers of wells were as follows:

  • Coastal Los Angeles Basin study unit—61 status wells, 8 trend wells
  • Upper Santa Ana Watershed study unit—90 status wells, 16 trend wells
  • Santa Clara River Valley study unit—42 status wells, 6 trend wells.

The groundwater samples were analyzed for a number of synthetic organic constituents (volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and pesticide degradates), constituents of special interest (perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine [NDMA], and 1,2,3-trichloropropane [1,2,3-TCP]), and naturally occurring inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements). Naturally occurring isotopes (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 investigated.

Quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, or samples for matrix spikes) were collected at 34 percent of the trend wells, 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 blanks in samples from GAMA-PBP study units, including the study units presented here, some groundwater results were adjusted in this report. Differences between replicate samples were mostly within acceptable ranges, indicating acceptably low variability in analytical results. Median matrix-spike recoveries were within the acceptable range (70 to 130 percent) for 189 of the 224 compounds for which matrix spikes were analyzed (84 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 attain acceptable water quality. The 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 California Department of Public Health. Comparisons between data collected for this study and benchmarks for drinking-water quality are for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of compliance or non-compliance with those benchmarks.

Most constituents that were detected in groundwater samples from the trend wells were found at concentrations less than drinking-water benchmarks. Two volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene—were detected in samples from one or more wells at concentrations greater than their health-based benchmarks, and three VOCs—chloroform, tetrachloroethene, and trichloroethene—were detected in at least 10 percent of the trend-well samples from the initial sampling period and the later trend sampling period. No pesticides were detected at concentrations near or greater than their health-based benchmarks. Three pesticide constituents—atrazine, deethylatrazine, and simazine—were detected in more than 10 percent of the trend-well samples in both sampling periods. Perchlorate, a constituent of special interest, was detected at a concentration greater than its health-based benchmark in samples from one trend well in the initial sampling and trend sampling periods, and in an additional trend well sample only in the trend sampling period. Most detections of nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements in samples from trend wells were less than health-based benchmarks in both sampling periods. Exceptions included nitrate, fluoride, arsenic, boron, molybdenum, strontium, and uranium; these were all detected at concentrations greater than their health-based benchmarks in at least one well sample in both sampling periods. Lead and vanadium were detected above their health-based benchmarks in one sample each collected in the initial sampling period only. The isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in water and the activities of tritium and carbon-14 generally changed little between sampling periods.