Groundwater quality in the approximately 766-square-mile South Coast Range-Coastal (SCRC) study unit was investigated from May to December 2008, as part of the Priority Basins Project of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA Priority Basins Project was developed in response to legislative mandates (Supplemental Report of the 1999 Budget Act 1999-00 Fiscal Year; and, the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 [Sections 10780-10782.3 of the California Water Code, Assembly Bill 599]) to assess and monitor the quality of groundwater in California, and is being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The SCRC study unit was the 25th study unit to be sampled as part of the GAMA Priority Basins Project.
The SCRC study unit was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of untreated groundwater quality in the primary aquifer systems and to facilitate statistically consistent comparisons of untreated groundwater quality throughout California. The primary aquifer systems (hereinafter referred to as primary aquifers) were defined as that part of the aquifer corresponding to the perforation interval of wells listed in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) database for the SCRC study unit. The quality of groundwater in shallow or deep water-bearing zones may differ from the quality of groundwater in the primary aquifers; shallow groundwater may be more vulnerable to surficial contamination. In the SCRC study unit, groundwater samples were collected from 70 wells in two study areas (Basins and Uplands) in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Fifty-five of the wells were selected using a spatially distributed, randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study unit (grid wells), and 15 wells were selected to aid in evaluation of specific water-quality issues (understanding wells). In addition to the 70 wells sampled, 3 surface-water samples were collected in streams near 2 of the sampled wells in order to better comprehend the interaction between groundwater and surface water in the area.
The groundwater samples were analyzed for organic constituents (volatile organic compounds [VOC], pesticides and pesticide degradates, polar pesticides and metabolites, and pharmaceutical compounds), constituents of special interest (perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine [NDMA], and 1,2,3-TCP), naturally occurring inorganic constituents (trace elements, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon [DOC], major and minor ions, silica, total dissolved solids [TDS], and alkalinity), and radioactive constituents (gross alpha and gross beta radioactivity). Naturally occurring isotopes (stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in water, stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen in dissolved nitrate, stable isotopes of sulfur in dissolved sulfate, stable isotopes of carbon in dissolved inorganic carbon, activities of tritium, and carbon-14 abundance), and dissolved gases (including noble gases) also were measured to help identify the sources and ages of the sampled groundwater. In total, 298 constituents and field water-quality indicators were investigated. Three types of quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, and matrix-spikes) were collected at approximately 3 to 12 percent of the wells in the SCRC study unit, and the results for these samples were used to evaluate the quality of the data for the groundwater samples. Field blanks rarely contained detectable concentrations of any constituent, suggesting that contamination from sample collection procedures was not a significant source of bias in the data for the groundwater samples. Differences between replicate samples generally were less than 10 percent relative and/or standard deviation, indicating acceptable analytical reproducibility. Matrix-spike recoveries were within the acceptable range (70 to 130 percent) for approximately 84