Nitrate was discovered in ground water in the east Erda area of Tooele County, Utah, in 1994. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Tooele County, investigated the ground-water flow system and water quality in the eastern part of Tooele Valley to determine (1) the vertical and horizontal distribution of nitrate, (2) the direction of movement of the nitrate contamination, and (3) the source of the nitrate. The potentiometric surface of the upper part of the basin-fill aquifer indicates that the general direction of ground-water flow is to the northwest, the flow system is complex, and there is a ground-water mound probably associated with springs. The spatial distribution of nitrate reflects the flow system with the nitrate contamination split into a north and south part by the ground-water mound. The distribution of dissolved solids and sulfate in ground water varies spatially. Vertical profiles of nitrate in water from selected wells indicate that nitrate contamination generally is in the upper part of the saturated zone and in some wells has moved downward. Septic systems, mining and smelting, agriculture, and natural sources were considered to be possible sources of nitrate contamination in the east Erda area. Septic systems are not the source of nitrate because water from wells drilled upgradient of all septic systems in the area had elevated nitrate concentrations. Mining and smelting activity are a possible source of nitrate contamination but few data are available to link nitrate contamination with mining sites. Natural and agricultural sources of nitrate are present east of the Erda area but few data are available about these sources. The source(s) of nitrate in the east Erda area could not be clearly delineated in spite of considerable effort and expenditure of resources.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water movement and nitrate in ground water, East Erda area, Tooele County, Utah, 1997-2000