Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona: 2011-2012

Open-File Report 2013-1304
Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Arizona Department of Water Resources
By:  and 



The Navajo (N) aquifer is an extensive aquifer and the primary source of groundwater in the 5,400-square-mile Black Mesa area in northeastern Arizona. Availability of water is an important issue in northeastern Arizona because of continued water requirements for industrial and municipal use by a growing population and because of low precipitation in the arid climate of the Black Mesa area. Precipitation in the area typically is between 6 and 14 inches per year.

The U.S. Geological Survey water-monitoring program in the Black Mesa area began in 1971 and provides information about the long-term effects of groundwater withdrawals from the N aquifer for industrial and municipal uses. This report presents results of data collected as part of the monitoring program in the Black Mesa area from January 2011 to September 2012. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals, (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater chemistry.

In 2011, total groundwater withdrawals were 4,480 acre-ft, industrial withdrawals were 1,390 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 3,090 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2011 were about 39 percent less than total withdrawals in 2005 because of Peabody Western Coal Company’s discontinued use of water to transport coal in a slurry. From 2010 to 2011 total withdrawals increased by 11 percent; industrial withdrawals increased by approximately 19 percent, and total municipal withdrawals increased by 8 percent.

From 2011 to 2012, annually measured water levels in the Black Mesa area declined in 8 of 15 wells that were available for comparison in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer, and the median change was -0.1 feet. Water levels declined in 9 of 18 wells measured in the confined area of the aquifer. The median change for the confined area of the aquifer was 0.0 feet. From the prestress period (prior to 1965) to 2012, the median water-level change for 34 wells in both the confined and unconfined areas was -13.4 feet; the median water-level changes were -2.1 feet for 16 wells measured in the unconfined areas and -39.1 feet for 18 wells measured in the confined area.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2012. Flow fluctuated during the period of record for Burro and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso, but a decreasing trend was apparent at Moenkopi School Spring and Pasture Canyon Spring. Discharge at Burro Spring has remained relatively constant since it was first measured in the 1980s and discharge at Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso has fluctuated for the period of record. Trend analysis for discharge at Moenkopi and Pasture Canyon Springs yielded a slope significantly different from zero.

Continuous records of surface-water discharge in the Black Mesa area were collected from streamflow-gaging stations at the following sites: Moenkopi Wash at Moenkopi 09401260 (1976 to 2010), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2010), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2010), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2010). Median winter flows (November through February) of each water year were used as an index of the amount of groundwater discharge at the above-named sites. For the period of record of each streamflow-gaging station, the median winter flows have generally remained constant, and there are no significant statistical trends in groundwater discharge.

In 2012, water samples collected from 10 wells and 4 springs in the Black Mesa area were analyzed for selected chemical constituents, and the results were compared with previous analyses. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate have varied at all 10 wells for the period of record, but neither increasing nor decreasing trends over time were found. Dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate concentrations increased at Moenkopi School Spring during the more than 12 years of record at that site. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Pasture Canyon Spring have not varied significantly since the early 1980s, and there is no increasing or decreasing trend in those data. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Burro Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso have varied for the period of record, but there is no increasing or decreasing trend in the data.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona: 2011-2012
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2013-1304
DOI 10.3133/ofr20131304
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Description v, 42 p.
Time Range Start 2011-01-01
Time Range End 2012-09-30
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Black Mesa
Projection Lambert Conformal Conic projection
Scale 100000
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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