Concentrations and temporal changes in concentrations of nitrate and total dissolved solids (TDS) in groundwater of the Bunker Hill, Lytle, Rialto, and Colton groundwater subbasins of the Upper Santa Ana Valley Groundwater Basin were evaluated to identify trends and factors that may be affecting trends. One hundred, thirty-one public-supply wells were selected for analysis based on the availability of data spanning at least 11 years between the late 1980s and the 2000s.
Forty-one of the 131 wells (31%) had a significant (p < 0.10) increase in nitrate and 14 wells (11%) had a significant decrease in nitrate. For TDS, 46 wells (35%) had a significant increase and 8 wells (6%) had a significant decrease. Slopes for the observed significant trends ranged from − 0.44 to 0.91 mg/L/yr for nitrate (as N) and − 8 to 13 mg/L/yr for TDS.
Increasing nitrate trends were associated with greater well depth, higher percentage of agricultural land use, and being closer to the distal end of the flow system. Decreasing nitrate trends were associated with the occurrence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); VOC occurrence decreases with increasing depth.
The relations of nitrate trends to depth, lateral position, and VOCs imply that increasing nitrate concentrations are associated with nitrate loading from historical agricultural land use and that more recent urban land use is generally associated with lower nitrate concentrations and greater VOC occurrence. Increasing TDS trends were associated with relatively greater current nitrate concentrations and relatively greater amounts of urban land. Decreasing TDS trends were associated with relatively greater amounts of natural land use. Trends in TDS concentrations were not related to depth, lateral position, or VOC occurrence, reflecting more complex factors affecting TDS than nitrate in the study area.