To assess spatial, seasonal, and source variability in stable isotopic composition of human drinking waters throughout the entire USA, we have constructed a database of δ18O and δ2H of US tap waters. An additional purpose was to create a publicly available dataset useful for evaluating the forensic applicability of these isotopes for human tissue source geolocation. Samples were obtained at 349 sites, from diverse population centres, grouped by surface hydrologic units for regional comparisons. Samples were taken concurrently during two contrasting seasons, summer and winter. Source supply (surface, groundwater, mixed, and cistern) and system (public and private) types were noted. The isotopic composition of tap waters exhibits large spatial and regional variation within each season as well as signiﬁcant at-site differences between seasons at many locations, consistent with patterns found in environmental (river and precipitation) waters deriving from hydrologic processes inﬂuenced by geographic factors. However, anthropogenic factors, such as the population of a tap’s surrounding community and local availability from diverse sources, also inﬂuence the isotopic composition of tap waters. Even within a locale as small as a single metropolitan area, tap waters with greatly differing isotopic compositions can be found, so that tap water within a region may not exhibit the spatial or temporal coherence predicted for environmental water. Such heterogeneities can be confounding factors when attempting forensic inference of source water location, and they underscore the necessity of measurements, not just predictions, with which to characterize the isotopic composition of regional tap waters. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
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Spatial, seasonal, and source variability in the stable oxygen and hydrogen isotopic composition of tap waters throughout the USA