Identifying areas of degrading and improving groundwater-quality conditions in the State of California, USA, 1974-2014

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (
By: , and 



Areas of improving and degrading groundwater-quality conditions in the State of California were assessed using spatial weighting of a new metric for scoring wells based on constituent concentrations and the direction and magnitude of a trend slope (Sen). Individual well scores were aggregated across 2135 equal-area grid cells covering the entire groundwater resource used for public supply in the state. Spatial weighting allows results to be aggregated locally (well or grid cell), regionally (groundwater basin), provincially, or statewide. Results differentiate degrading (increasing concentration trends) areas with low to moderate concentrations (unimpaired) from degrading areas with moderate to high concentrations (impaired). Results also differentiate improving areas (decreasing concentration trends) in the same manner. Multi-year to decadal groundwater-quality trends were computed from periodic, inorganic water-quality data for 38 constituents collected between 1974 and 2014 for compliance monitoring of nearly 13,000 public-supply wells (PSWs) in the State of California. Mann-Kendall (MK) rank correlations and Sen’s slope estimator were used to detect statistically significant trends for the entire period of recorded data (long-term trend), for the period since 2000 (recent trend), for different pumping seasons (seasonal trend), and for reversals of trends. Statewide, the most frequently detected trends since 2000 were for nitrate (36%), gross alpha/uranium (10%), arsenic (14%), total dissolved solids (TDS) (23%), and the major ions that contribute to TDS (19–28%). The Transverse and Selected Peninsular Ranges (TSPR) and the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) hydrogeologic provinces had the largest percentage of areas with moderate to high nitrate concentrations and groundwater quality trends. Improving nitrate concentrations in parts of the TSPR is associated with long-term managed aquifer recharge that has replaced historical, agriculturally affected groundwater with low-nitrate recharge in parts of the TSPR. This example suggests that application of dilute, excess surface water to agricultural fields during the winter could improve groundwater-quality in the SJV over the long term.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Identifying areas of degrading and improving groundwater-quality conditions in the State of California, USA, 1974-2014
Series title Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (
DOI 10.1007/s10661-020-8180-y
Volume 192
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 250, 23 p.
Country United States
State California
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