Groundwater, Surface-Water, and Water-Chemistry Data, Black Mesa Area, Northeastern Arizona—2015–2016

Open-File Report 2018-1193
Prepared in cooperation with the Navajo Nation 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 the Black Mesa area because of continued water requirements for industrial and municipal use by a growing population and because of the arid climate. Precipitation in the area typically ranges from less than 6 to more than 16 inches per year depending on location.

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 November 2015 to December 2016. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals (pumping), (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater chemistry.

In calendar year 2016, total groundwater withdrawals were 3,540 acre-ft, industrial withdrawals were 1,090 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 2,450 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2016 were about 52 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 2015 to 2016, annually measured water levels available for comparison in wells completed in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer within the Black Mesa area declined in 9 of 16 wells, and the median change was –0.1 feet. Water levels also declined in 8 of 16 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 2016, the median water-level change for all 32 wells in both the confined and unconfined areas was –10.2 feet; the median water-level changes were –1.6 feet for the 16 wells measured in the unconfined areas and –36.1 feet for the 16 wells measured in the confined area.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2016. Flow fluctuated during the period of record for Burro Spring and Pasture Canyon Spring, but a decreasing trend was statistically significant (p<0.05) at Moenkopi School Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso. Discharge at Burro Spring has remained relatively constant since it was first measured in the 1980s and discharge at Pasture Canyon Spring has fluctuated for the period of record.

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 2016), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2016), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2016), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2016). 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, the median winter flows have generally remained constant at Dinnebito Wash and Polacca Wash, whereas a decreasing trend was indicated at Moenkopi Wash and Pasture Canyon Springs.

In 2016, water samples collected from three wells and four springs in the Black Mesa area were analyzed for selected chemical constituents, and the results were compared with previous analyses from the same wells and springs. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate have varied at all three 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 25 years of record at that site. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Pasture Canyon Spring have not varied significantly (p>0.05) 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 statistical trend in the data.

Suggested Citation

Mason, J.P., and Macy, J.P., 2018, Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2015–2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1193, 60 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Description of Study Area
  • Hydrologic Data
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2015–2016
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1193
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181193
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Description vii, 60 p.
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Black Mesa Area
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytics Metrics Metrics page
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