Status of groundwater quality in the Santa Barbara Study Unit, 2011: California GAMA Priority Basin Project

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5112
Prepared in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board
By:  and 

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Abstract

Groundwater quality in the 48-square-mile Santa Barbara study unit was investigated in 2011 as part of the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program Priority Basin Project. The study unit is mostly in Santa Barbara County and is in the Transverse and Selected Peninsular Ranges hydrogeologic province. The GAMA Priority Basin Project is carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the California State Water Resources Control Board and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The GAMA Priority Basin Project was designed to provide a statistically unbiased, spatially distributed assessment of the quality of untreated groundwater in the primary aquifer system of California. The primary aquifer system is defined as that part of the aquifer corresponding to the perforation interval of wells listed in the California Department of Public Health database for the Santa Barbara study unit. This status assessment is intended to characterize the quality of groundwater resources in the primary aquifer system of the Santa Barbara study unit, not the treated drinking water delivered to consumers by water purveyors.

The status assessment for the Santa Barbara study unit was based on water-quality and ancillary data collected in 2011 by the U.S. Geological Survey from 23 sites and on water-quality data from the California Department of Public Health database for January 24, 2008–January 23, 2011. The data used for the assessment included volatile organic compounds; pesticides; pharmaceutical compounds; two constituents of special interest, perchlorate and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA); and naturally present inorganic constituents, such as major ions and trace elements. Relative-concentrations (sample concentration divided by the health- or aesthetic-based benchmark concentration) were used to evaluate groundwater quality for those constituents that have federal or California regulatory and non-regulatory benchmarks for drinking-water quality. For inorganic, organic, and special-interest constituents, a relative-concentration greater than 1.0 indicates a concentration greater than the benchmark and is classified as high. Inorganic constituents are classified as moderate if relative-concentrations are greater than 0.5 and less than or equal to 1.0 and are classified as low if relative-concentrations are less than or equal to 0.5. For organic and special-interest constituents, the boundary between moderate and low relative-concentrations was set at 0.1.

Aquifer-scale proportion was used as the primary metric for evaluating regional-scale groundwater quality. High aquifer-scale proportion is defined as the areal percentage of the primary aquifer system with a relative-concentration greater than 1.0 for a particular constituent or class of constituents. Moderate and low aquifer-scale proportions were defined as the areal percentage of the primary aquifer system that had moderate and low relative-concentrations, respectively. Two statistical approaches—grid based and spatially weighted—were used to calculate aquifer-scale proportions for individual constituents and constituent classes. Grid-based and spatially weighted estimates were comparable in this the study (within 90-percent confidence intervals). Grid-based results were selected for use in the status assessment unless, as was observed in a few cases, a grid-based result was zero and the spatially weighted result was not zero, in which case, the spatially weighted result was used.

Inorganic constituents that have human-health benchmarks were present at high relative-concentrations in 5.3 percent of the primary aquifer system and at moderate concentrations in 32 percent. High aquifer-scale proportions of inorganic constituents primarily were a result of high aquifer-scale proportions of boron (5.3 percent) and fluoride (5.3 percent). Inorganic constituents that have aesthetic-based benchmarks, referred to as secondary maximum contaminant levels, were present at high relative-concentrations in 58 percent of the primary aquifer system and at moderate concentrations in 37 percent. Iron, manganese, sulfate, and total dissolved solids were the inorganic constituents with secondary maximum contaminant levels present at high relative-concentrations.

In contrast, organic and special-interest constituents that have health-based benchmarks were not detected at high relative-concentrations in the primary aquifer system. Of the 218 organic constituents analyzed, 10 were detected—9 that had human-health benchmarks. Organic constituents were present at moderate relative-concentrations in 11 percent of the primary aquifer system. The moderate aquifer-scale proportions were a result of moderate relative-concentrations of the volatile organic compounds methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE, 11 percent) and 1,2-dichloroethane (5.6 percent). The volatile organic compounds 1,1,1-trichloroethane, 1,1-dichloroethane, bromodichloromethane, chloroform, MTBE, and perchloroethene (PCE); the pesticide simazine; and the special-interest constituent perchlorate were detected at more than 10 percent of the sites in the Santa Barbara study unit. Perchlorate was present at moderate relative-concentrations in 50 percent of the primary aquifer system. Pharmaceutical compounds and NDMA were not detected in the Santa Barbara study unit.

Suggested Citation

Davis, T.A., and Kulongoski, J.T., 2016, Status of groundwater quality in the Santa Barbara Study Unit, 2011: California GAMA Priority Basin Project: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5112, 70 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165112.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Potential Explanatory Factors
  • Status of Groundwater Quality
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Tables
  • Appendixes 1–3

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Status of groundwater quality in the Santa Barbara Study Unit, 2011: California GAMA Priority Basin Project
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5112
DOI 10.3133/sir20165112
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description viii, 70 p.
Public Comments A product of the California Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Santa Barbara Study Unit
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