Predicted nitrate and arsenic concentrations in basin-fill aquifers of the Southwestern United States

Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5065

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The National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting a regional analysis of water quality in the principal aquifer systems across the United States. The Southwest Principal Aquifers (SWPA) study is building a better understanding of the susceptibility and vulnerability of basin-fill aquifers in the region to groundwater contamination by synthesizing baseline knowledge of groundwater-quality conditions in 16 basins previously studied by the NAWQA Program. The improved understanding of aquifer susceptibility and vulnerability to contamination is assisting in the development of tools that water managers can use to assess and protect the quality of groundwater resources.

About 46.6 million people live in the SWPA study area, mostly in urban areas, but also in rural, agricultural communities that cultivate about 14.4 million acres of cropland. Other rural areas contain small communities with mining, retirement, or tourism/recreational-based economies. Because of the generally limited availability of surface-water supplies in the arid to semiarid climate, cultural and economic activities in the region are particularly dependent on good-quality groundwater supplies. In the year 2000, about 33.7 million acre-feet (acre-ft) of surface water was diverted from streams, and about 23.0 million acre-ft of groundwater was withdrawn from basin-fill aquifers in the SWPA study area. Irrigation and public-supply withdrawals from basin-fill aquifers in the study area for 2000 were about 18.0 million acre-ft and 4.1 million acre-ft, respectively, and together account for about one quarter of the total withdrawals from all aquifers in the United States. Although irrigation and public supply are the primary uses of basin-fill aquifer withdrawals in the study area, water use varies locally by basin, and withdrawals for industrial, mining, and electric power generation also are substantial in some areas.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Predicted nitrate and arsenic concentrations in basin-fill aquifers of the Southwestern United States
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center, Nevada Water Science Center, Arizona Water Science Center, New Mexico Water Science Center
Report: viii, 115 p.; Metadata; Appendices 1, 2, 8-17
Public Comments:
National Water-Quality Assessment Program
United States
Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah
North American Datum of 1983
Albers Equal Area Conic projection