Water-Quality Data

Groundwater-quality data in the Antelope Valley study unit, 2008: Results from the California GAMA program

Schmitt, S.J., Milby Dawson, B.J., and Belitz, Kenneth, 2009, U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 479, 79 p.

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

Groundwater quality in the approximately 1,600 square-mile Antelope Valley study unit (ANT) was investigated from January to April 2008 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 the quality of raw groundwater used for public water supplies within ANT, and to facilitate statistically consistent comparisons of groundwater quality throughout California. Samples were collected from 57 wells in Kern, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties. Fifty-six of the wells were selected using a spatially distributed, randomized, grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study area (grid wells), and one additional well was selected to aid in evaluation of specific water-quality issues (understanding well).

The groundwater samples were analyzed for a large number of organic constituents (volatile organic compounds [VOCs], gasoline additives and degradates, pesticides and pesticide degradates, fumigants, and pharmaceutical compounds), constituents of special interest (perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine [NDMA], and 1,2,3-trichloropropane [1,2,3-TCP]), naturally occurring inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements), and radioactive constituents (gross alpha and gross beta radioactivity, radium isotopes, and radon-222). Naturally occurring isotopes (strontium, tritium, and carbon-14, and stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in water), and dissolved noble gases also were measured to help identify the sources and ages of the sampled groundwater. In total, 239 constituents and water-quality indicators (field parameters) were investigated.

Quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, and samples for matrix spikes) were collected at 12 percent of the wells, and the results for these samples were used to evaluate the quality of the data for the groundwater samples. Field blanks rarely contained detectable concentrations of any constituent, suggesting that contamination was not a noticeable source of bias in the data for the groundwater samples. Differences between replicate samples generally were within acceptable ranges, indicating acceptably low variability. Matrix spike recoveries were within acceptable ranges for most compoundsThis study did not evaluate the quality of water delivered to consumers; after withdrawal from the ground, water typically is treated, disinfected, or blended with other waters to maintain water quality. Regulatory thresholds apply to water that is served to the consumer, not to raw groundwater. However, to provide some context for the results, concentrations of constituents measured in the raw groundwater were compared with regulatory and non-regulatory health-based thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and thresholds established for aesthetic concerns (secondary maximum contaminant levels, SMCL-CA) by CDPH. Comparisons between data collected for this study and drinking-water thresholds are for illustrative purposes only, and are not indicative of compliance or non-compliance with drinking water standards.

Most constituents that were detected in groundwater samples were found at concentrations below drinking-water thresholds. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in about one-half of the samples and pesticides detected in about one-third of the samples; all detections of these constituents were below health-based thresholds. Most detections of trace elements and nutrients in samples from ANT wells were below health-based thresholds. Exceptions include: one detection of nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen (NO2+NO3) above the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL-US: 10 mg/L), five detections of arsenic above the MCL-US (6 μg/L), one detection of boron above the CDPH notification level (NL-CA: 1,000 μg/L), and two detections of vanadium above the NL-CA (50 μg/L). Most detections of radioactive constituents were below health-based thresholds. Exceptions include two detections of gross alpha radioactivity (72-hour and 30-day counts) above the MCL-US (15 pCi/L). Also, radon-222 was detected above the proposed MCL-US (300 pCi/L) in 14 grid wells and the understanding well, but no wells had detections above the proposed alternative MCL-US (4,000 pCi/L). Most of the samples from ANT wells had concentrations of major elements, total dissolved solids (TDS), and trace elements below the non-enforceable thresholds set for aesthetic concerns. Three samples contained sulfate and four samples contained total dissolved solids at concentrations above the SMCL-CA thresholds (250 mg/L and 500 mg/L, respectively). Two of the total dissolved solids detections were above the upper SMCL-CA (1,000 mg/L). Samples from four wells had field pH values above the SMCL-US (>pH 8.5). Field-measured specific conductance values were above the SMCL-CA (900 μS/cm at 25°C) at eight wells with four of these measurements above the upper SMCL-CA threshold (1,600 μS/cm at 25°C).