Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2012–2013

Open-File Report 2015-1221
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 2012 to September 2013. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals, (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater chemistry.

In calendar year 2012, total groundwater withdrawals were 4,010 acre-ft, industrial withdrawals were 1,370 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 2,640 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2012 were about 45 percent less than total withdrawals in 2005 because of Peabody Western Coal Company’s discontinued use of water to transport coal in a coal slurry pipeline. From 2011 to 2012 total withdrawals decreased by 10 percent; industrial withdrawals decreased by approximately 1 percent, and total municipal withdrawals decreased by 15 percent.

From 2012 to 2013, annually measured water levels in the Black Mesa area declined in 6 of 16 wells that were available for comparison in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer, and the median change was 0.8 feet. Water levels declined in 5 of 16 wells measured in the confined area of the aquifer. The median change for the confined area of the aquifer was 0.3 feet. From the prestress period (prior to 1965) to 2013, the median water-level change for 34 wells in both the confined and unconfined areas was -13.5 feet; the median water-level changes were -0.8 feet for 16 wells measured in the unconfined areas and -51.0 feet for 16 wells measured in the confined area.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2013; Burro, Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso, Moenkopi School, and Pasture Canyon Springs. Flow fluctuated during the period of record for Burro and Unnamed Springs 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 at each spring. Trend analysis for discharge at Moenkopi School and Pasture Canyon Springs showed a decreasing trend.

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 2013), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2013), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2013), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2013). Median winter flows (November through February) from these sites for each water year were used as an index of the amount of groundwater discharge. For the period of record of each streamflow-gaging station, the median winter flows have generally remained constant, which suggests no change in groundwater discharge.

In 2013, water samples collected from 12 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 12 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 13 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. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Burro Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso have varied for the period of record with no increasing or decreasing trend in the data.

Suggested Citation

Macy, J.P., and Truini, Margot, 2016, Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2012–2013: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1221, 43 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Hydrologic Data
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2012–2013
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2015-1221
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151221
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Description vi, 43 p.
Time Range Start 2012-01-01
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Black Mesa Area
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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