Chemical modeling was used by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (henceforth, Authority), to gain insight into the potential chemical effects that could occur in the Authority's water distribution system as a result of changing the source of water used for municipal and industrial supply from ground water to surface water, or to some mixture of the two sources. From historical data, representative samples of ground-water and surface-water chemistry were selected for modeling under a range of environmental conditions anticipated to be present in the distribution system. Mineral phases calculated to have the potential to precipitate from ground water were compared with the compositions of precipitate samples collected from the current water distribution system and with mineral phases calculated to have the potential to precipitate from surface water and ground-water/surface-water mixtures.
Several minerals that were calculated to have the potential to precipitate from ground water in the current distribution system were identified in precipitate samples from pipes, reservoirs, and water heaters. These minerals were the calcium carbonates aragonite and calcite, and the iron oxides/hydroxides goethite, hematite, and lepidocrocite. Several other minerals that were indicated by modeling to have the potential to precipitate were not found in precipitate samples. For most of these minerals, either the kinetics of formation were known to be unfavorable under conditions present in the distribution system or the minerals typically are not formed through direct precipitation from aqueous solutions.
The minerals with potential to precipitate as simulated for surface-water samples and ground-water/surface-water mixtures were quite similar to the minerals with potential to precipitate from ground-water samples. Based on the modeling results along with kinetic considerations, minerals that appear most likely to either dissolve or newly precipitate when surface water or ground-water/surface-water mixtures are delivered through the Authority's current distribution system are carbonates (particularly aragonite and calcite). Other types of minerals having the potential to dissolve or newly precipitate under conditions present throughout most of the distribution system include a form of silica, an aluminum hyroxide (gibbsite or diaspore), or the Fe-containing mineral Fe3(OH)8. Dissolution of most of these minerals (except perhaps the Fe-containing minerals) is not likely to substantially affect trace-element concentrations or aesthetic characteristics of delivered water, except perhaps hardness. Precipitation of these minerals would probably be of concern only if the quantities of material involved were large enough to clog pipes or fixtures. The mineral Fe3(OH)8 was not found in the current distribution system. Some Fe-containing minerals that were identified in the distribution system were associated with relatively high contents of selected elements, including As, Cr, Cu, Mn, Pb, and Zn. However, these Fe-containing minerals were not identified as minerals likely to dissolve when the source of water was changed from ground water to surface water or a ground-water/surface-water mixture.
Based on the modeled potential for calcite precipitation and additional calculations of corrosion indices ground water, surface water, and ground-water/surface-water mixtures are not likely to differ greatly in corrosion potential. In particular, surface water and ground-water/surface-water mixtures do not appear likely to dissolve large quantities of existing calcite and expose metal surfaces in the distribution system to substantially increased corrosion. Instead, modeling calculations indicate that somewhat larger masses of material would tend to precipitate from surface water or ground-water/surface-water mixtures compared to ground water alone.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Potential Chemical Effects of Changes in the Source of Water Supply for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority