Because of concerns expressed by the U.S. Congress and the environmental community, the Department of the Interior began a program in late 1985 to identify the nature and extent of water-quality problems induced by irrigation that might exist in the western States. Surface water, bottom sediment, and biota were collected from March through September 1995 along the lower Colorado River and in agricultural drains at nine sites in the Yuma Valley, Arizona, and analyzed for selected inorganic and organic constituents. Analyses of water, bottom sediment, and biota were completed to determine if irrigation return flow has caused, or has the potential to cause, harmful effects on human health, fish, and wildlife in the study area.
Concentrations of dissolved solids in surface-water samples collected in March generally did not vary substantially from surface-water samples collected in June. Concentrations of dissolved solids ranged from 712 to 3,000 milligrams per liter and exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency secondary maximum contaminant level of 500 milligrams per liter for drinking water. Concentrations of chloride in 9 of 18 water samples and concentrations of sulfate in 16 of 18 water samples exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency secondary maximum contaminant level of 250 milligrams per liter for drinking water. Calcium and sodium were the dominant cations, and chloride and sulfate were the dominant anions.
The maximum selenium concentration of 8 micrograms per liter exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aquatic-life chronic criterion of 5 micrograms per liter. Concentrations of lead in 7 of 18 water samples and concentrations of mercury in 4 of 18 water samples exceeded the aquatic-life cronic criteria of 3.2 and 0.012 micrograms per liter, respectively. Concentrations of antimony, beryllium, cadmium, and silver in the water samples were below analytical reporting limits. Arsenic was detected in 3 of 9 bottom-sediment samples, and concentrations ranged from 11 to 16 micrograms per gram. Concentrations ofaluminum, beryllium, boron, copper, lead, and zinc were highest in samples from Main Drain at southerly international boundary near San Luis, Arizona. Selenium was detected in all bottom-sediment samples, and concentrations ranged from 0.1 to 0.7 micrograms per gram. Concentrations of cadmium, europium, homium, mercury, molybdenum, silver, tantalum, tin, and uranium were below analytical reporting limits in the bottom-sediment samples. Concentrations of trace elements in bottom-sediment samples were within the ranges found in a study of soils of the western United States and did not indicate a significant accumulation of these constituents. p,p'Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (commonly referred to as p,-p'-DDE) was detected in one bottom-sediment sample at a concentration of 1.4 micrograms per gram. No other organochlorine compounds were detected in the bottom-sediment samples. DDE was present in all fish and bird samples. Almost one-half of the fish samples contained DDE residues that were two times higher than the mean calculated for a national study in 1984-85. Twenty-tree percent of the fish contained more than three times the national mean. Fish from downstream parts of the Main Drain had the highest concentrations of DDE. Although concentrations of DDE in fish and in bird carcasses and eggs were above background levels, residues generally were below thresholds associated with chronic poisoning and reproductive problems in figh and wildlife. Concentrations of 18 trace elements were detected in cattail (Typha sp.) roots, freshwater clam (Corbicula fluminea), fish, and bird samples. Selenium in most fish and in livers of red-winged (Agelaius phoeniceus) and yellow-headed (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) blackbirds was above background concentrations but below toxic concentrations. In contrast, selenium was present in a killdeer (Charadrium vociferus) liver sample at potentially toxic con
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Field screening of water quality, bottom sediment, and biota associated with irrigation drainage in the Yuma Valley, Arizona, 1995
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey ;
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