Groundwater quality in the approximately 1,695-square-mile Central Eastside San Joaquin Basin (Central Eastside) study unit was investigated as part of the Priority Basin Project (PBP) of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA PBP was developed in response to the California Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001, and is being conducted by the California State Water Resources Control Board in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The GAMA Central Eastside study unit was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of untreated-groundwater quality, as well as a statistically consistent basis for comparing water quality throughout California. During March through June 2006, samples were collected from 78 wells in Stanislaus and Merced Counties, 58 of which were selected using a spatially distributed, randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study unit (grid wells), and 20 of which were sampled to evaluate changes in water chemistry along groundwater-flow paths (understanding wells). Water-quality data from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) database also were used for the assessment.
An assessment of the current status of the groundwater quality included collecting samples from wells for analysis of anthropogenic constituents such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and pesticides, as well as naturally occurring constituents such as major ions and trace elements. The assessment of status is intended to characterize the quality of untreated-groundwater resources within the primary aquifer system, not the treated drinking water delivered to consumers by water purveyors. The primary aquifer system (hereinafter, primary aquifer) is defined as that part of the aquifer corresponding to the perforation interval of wells listed in the CDPH database for the Central Eastside study unit. The quality of groundwater in shallower or deeper water-bearing zones may differ from that in the primary aquifer; shallower groundwater may be more vulnerable to surficial contamination. The primary aquifer is represented by the grid wells, of which 90 percent had depths to the tops of their perforations of about 80 to 330 feet and depths to bottom of about 100 to 670 feet. Relative-concentrations (sample concentration divided by benchmark concentration) were used as the primary metric for assessing the status of water quality for those constituents that have Federal and (or) California human health or aesthetic benchmarks. A relative-concentration greater than (>) 1.0 indicates a concentration above a benchmark, and less than or equal to (=) 1.0 indicates a concentration equal to or below a benchmark. For organic and special interest constituents, relative-concentrations were classified as high (>1.0), moderate (=1.0 and >0.1), or low (=0.1). For inorganic constituents, relative-concentrations were classified as high (>1.0), moderate (=1.0 and >0.5), or low (=0.5). The threshold between low and moderate classifications was lower for organic and special interest constituents than for inorganic constituents because organic constituents generally are less prevalent and have smaller relative-concentrations than inorganic constituents.
Grid-based and spatially-weighted approaches, the latter incorporating data from all CDPH wells, were used to evaluate the proportion of the primary aquifer (aquifer-scale proportions) with high, moderate, or low relative-concentrations. For individual constituents or classes of constituents, the aquifer-scale high proportion is the percentage of the area of the study unit having high relative-concentrations within the depth-zones of the primary aquifer. Aquifer-scale moderate and low proportions are defined similarly. Spatially-weighted aquifer-scale high proportions nearly always fell within the 90-percent confidence interval of grid-based aquifer-scale high proportions,
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Status and Understanding of Groundwater Quality in the Central-Eastside San Joaquin Basin, 2006: California GAMA Priority Basin Project