Over the past few decades, New Hampshire has experienced considerable population growth, which is forcing some communities to look for alternative public and private water supplies in the bedrock aquifer. Because the quality of water from the aquifer can vary, the U.S. Geological Survey statistically analyzed well data from 1,353 domestic and 360 public-supply bedrock wells to characterize the ground water. The domestic-well data were from homeowner-collected samples analyzed by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Environmental Laboratory from 1984 to 1994. Bedrock water in New Hampshire often contains high concentrations of iron, manganese, arsenic, and radon gas. Water samples from 21 percent of the domestic bedrock wells contained arsenic above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 10 micrograms per liter (?g/L) drinking-water standard for public-water supplies, and 96 percent had radon concentrations greater than the USEPA-proposed 300 picocurie per liter (pCi/L) standard for public-water supplies. Some elevated fluoride concentrations (2 percent of samples) were above the 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L) USEPA drinking-water standard for public-water supplies. Water from the bedrock aquifer also typically is soft to moderately hard, and has a pH greater than 7.0.
Variations in bedrock water quality were discernable when the data were compared to lithochemical groupings of the bedrock, indicating that the type of bedrock has an effect on the quality of water in the bedrock aquifer of New Hampshire. Ground-water samples from the metasedimentary lithochemical group have greater concentrations of total iron and total manganese than do the felsic and mafic igneous lithochemical groups. Ground-water samples from the felsic igneous group have higher concentrations of total fluoride than do those from the other lithochemical groups. For arsenic, the calcareous metasedimentary group was identified, using the public-supply database, as having higher concentrations, on average, than the other lithochemical groups. The use of a radon-gas-potential classification of bedrock in the State indicated where high radon concentrations in the air and in water from private and public-supply wells were more likely to occur.
In general, samples from the bedrock aquifer tend to have higher pH (are less acidic), greater hardness, much higher concentrations of iron, similar concentrations of manganese, and higher concentrations of fluoride and arsenic than do samples from stratified-drift aquifers in New Hampshire. An understanding of the water-quality conditions of water in bedrock aquifers is important from a public-health perspective because an increasing number of domestic bedrock wells are being drilled and relied upon as a source of drinking water in the State.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Quality of water in the fractured-bedrock aquifer of New Hampshire