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Detailed study of selenium and selected constituents in water, bottom sediment, soil, and biota associated with irrigation drainage in the San Juan River area, New Mexico, 1991-95

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4213

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Abstract

In response to increasing concern about the quality of irrigation drainage and its potential effects on fish, wildlife, and human health, the U.S. Department of the Interior began the National Irrigation Water Quality Program (NIWQP) to investigate these concerns at irrigation projects sponsored by the Department. The San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico was one of the areas designated for study. Study teams composed of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs collected water, bottom-sediment, soil, and biological samples at 61 sites in the San Juan River area during 1993-94. Supplemental data collection conducted during 1991-95 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its contractor extended the time period and sampling sites available for analysis. Analytical chemistry performed on samples indicated that most potentially toxic elements other than selenium generally were not high enough to be of concern to fish, wildlife, and human health. Element concentrations in some water, bottom-sediment, soil, and biological samples exceeded applicable standards and criteria suggested by researchers in current literature. Selenium concentrations in water samples from 28 sites in the study area exceeded the 2-microgram-per-liter wildlife-habitat standard. Vanadium concentrations in water exceeded the 100-microgram-per-liter standard for livestock-drinking water at one site. In biota, selenium and aluminum concentrations regularly equaled or exceeded avian dietary threshold concentrations. In bottom sediment and soil, element concentrations above the upper limit of the baseline range for western soils were: selenium, 24 exceedances; lead, 2 exceedances; molybdenum, 2 exceedances; strontium, 4 exceedances; and zinc, 4 exceedances. Concentrations of total selenium in bottom-sediment and soil samples were significantly greater for Cretaceous than for non-Cretaceous soil types in the study area and were generally similar for habitats within and outside irrigation-affected areas. Mean and median total-selenium concentrations in samples from areas with Cretaceous soil types were 4.6 and 2.2 micrograms per gram, respectively. Mean and median total-selenium concentrations in samples from areas with non-Cretaceous soil types were 0.6 and 0.15 microgram per gram, respectively. Samples from the study area had low concentrations of organic constituents. Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls were detected in a few biological samples at low concentrations. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds were not detected in whole-water samples collected using conventional water-sampling techniques. In tests involving the use of semipermeable-membrane devices to supplement conventional water assays for PAH's, low concentrations of PAH's were found at several locations in the Hammond Irrigation Supply Canal, but were not detected in the Hammond ponds at the downstream reach of the Hammond irrigation service area. PAH compounds do not appear to reach the San Juan River through the Hammond Canal. Data indicate that water samples from irrigation-drainage-affected habitats had increased mean selenium concentrations compared with samples from irrigation-delivery habitat. The mean selenium concentration in water was greatest at seeps and tributaries draining irrigated land (17 micrograms per liter); less in irrigation drains and in ponds on irrigated land (6 micrograms per liter); and least in backwater, the San Juan River, and irrigation-supply water (0.5 - 0.6 microgram per liter). Statistical tests imply that irrigation significantly increases selenium concentrations in water samples when a Department of the Interior irrigation project is developed on selenium-rich sediments. Water samples from sites with Cretaceous soils had signi

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Detailed study of selenium and selected constituents in water, bottom sediment, soil, and biota associated with irrigation drainage in the San Juan River area, New Mexico, 1991-95
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
98-4213
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1998
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
v, 84 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.