The Hopi Tribe Water Resources Program has granted contracts for studies to evaluate water supply conditions for the Moenkopi villages in Coconino County, Arizona. The Moenkopi villages include Upper Moenkopi Village and the village of Lower Moencopi, both on the Hopi Indian Reservation south of the Navajo community of Tuba City. These investigations have determined that water supplies are limited and vulnerable to several potential sources of contamination, including the Tuba City Landfill and a former uranium processing facility known as the Rare Metals Mill. Studies are ongoing to determine if uranium and other metals in groundwater beneath the landfill are greater than regional groundwater concentrations.
The source of water supply for the Upper Moenkopi Village is three public-supply wells. The wells are referred to as MSW-1, MSW-2, and MSW-3 and all three wells obtain water from the regionally extensive N aquifer. The N aquifer is the principal aquifer in this region of northern Arizona and consists of thick beds of sandstone between less permeable layers of siltstone and mudstone. The relatively fine-grained character of the N aquifer inhibits rapid movement of water and large yields to wells. In recent years, water levels have declined in the three public-supply wells, causing concern that the current water supply will not be able to accommodate peak demand and allow for residential and economic growth.
Analyses of major ions, nutrients, selected trace metals, stable and radioactive isotopes, and radiochemistry were performed on the groundwater samples from the three public-supply wells to describe general water-quality conditions and groundwater ages in and immediately surrounding the Upper Moenkopi Village area. None of the water samples collected from the public-supply wells exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary drinking water standards.
The ratios of the major dissolved ions from the samples collected from MSW-1 and MSW-2 indicate water with a major ion composition of calcium and sulfate. There is no significant vertical distribution of ion concentrations in the samples collected from the upper and lower portion of the water column within the two wells. The samples collected at MSW-3 are higher in sodium and lower in calcium than the samples collected from MSW-1 and MSW-2, and contain a similar sulfate-ion percentage. There is a vertical distribution of ion concentrations in the samples collected from the upper and lower portion of the water column in MSW-3.
Groundwater samples from the three water-supply wells analyzed for oxygen-18 and deuterium stable isotopes plot on a local water line that is approximately parallel to the global meteoric water line. Tritium concentrations in samples from MSW-1 and MSW-3 were equal to or less than laboratory detection limits and were interpreted to contain no modern (post-1952) water. Tritium concentration in a sample from the top of the water column at MSW-2 was 0.41 tritium units, indicating that the composition is primarily pre-bomb (pre-1952) water, but may contain a small fraction of post-bomb modern water.
The calculated carbon-14 ages of groundwater in MSW-1 and MSW-2, both completed about 140 feet into the Navajo Sandstone, are about 3,000 years before present. The calculated carbon-14 age of groundwater in MSW-3, completed about 240 feet into the Kayenta Formation-Navajo Sandstone transition zone is about 5,000 years before present in the upper portion of the water column and about 8,500 years before present in the lower portion of the water column. The gross alpha radioactivity of samples collected from the three water-supply wells ranged from 5.1 to 9.8 picocuries per liter-less than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary drinking water standard of 15 picocuries per liter. The gross beta radioactivity of samples collected from the wells ranged from 0.9 to 2.8 picocuries per liter and are not considered elevated relative to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary drinking water standard.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Qualilty, isotopes, and radiochemistry of water sampled from the Upper Moenkopi Village water-supply wells, Coconino County, Arizona