Among the first activities undertaken in each National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) investigation are the compilation, screening, and statistical summary of available data concerning water-quality conditions in the study unit. The water-quality conditions of interest are those that are representative of the general ambient water quality of a given stream reach or area of an aquifer. This report identifies which existing water-quality data are suitable for characterizing general conditions in a nationally consistent manner and describes, to the extent possible, general water-quality conditions in the Cook Inlet Basin in southcentral Alaska. The study unit consists of all lands that drain into Cook Inlet, but not the marine environment itself.
Surface-water-quality data are summarized for 31 sites on streams. Ground-water quality data are summarized for four regions using analyses from about 550 wells that yield water from unconsolidated glacial and alluvial deposits and analyses from 17 wells in western Cook Inlet, some of which may yield water from coal or weakly consolidated sandstone or conglomerate. The summaries focus on the central tendencies and typical variations in the data and use nonparametric statistics such as frequencies and percentile values.
Few surface- and ground-water sites have long-term water-quality records and very few data are available for dissolved oxygen, nutrients, metals, trace elements, organic compounds, and radionuclides. In general, most waters in streams and wells have small concentrations of major inorganic constituents, nutrients, trace elements, and organic compounds.
Most streams have water that is generally suitable for drinking-water supply, the growth and propagation of cold-water anadromous fish, and water-contact recreation. However, suspended-sediment concentrations in glacier-fed streams are naturally high and can make water from glacier-fed streams unsuitable for many uses unless the water is treated to remove the suspended sediment. Several streams and lakes in Anchorage have fecal coliform bacteria concentrations higher than allowed for drinking or water-contact recreation.
Ground water in the major withdrawal regions is generally suitable for drinking and most other purposes, but some wells yield water having nitrate, iron, or arsenic concentrations higher than drinking-water criteria. Ground-water quality has been degraded in several areas as the result of leaks or spills of petroleum products.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality assessment of the Cook Inlet basin, Alaska : summary of data through 1997
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services [distributor],