Category Archives: Water Resources

Brackish Groundwater in the United States a Viable Water Supply

Stanton, J.S., Anning, D.W., Brown, C.J., Moore, R.B., McGuire, V.L., Qi, S.L., Harris, A.C., Dennehy, K.F., McMahon, P.B., Degnan, J.R., and Böhlke, J.K., 2017, Brackish groundwater in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1833, 185 p.,

For some parts of the Nation, large-scale development of groundwater has caused decreases in the amount of groundwater that is present in aquifer storage and that discharges to surface-water bodies. Water supply in some areas, particularly in arid and semiarid regions, is not adequate to meet demand, and severe drought is affecting large parts of the United States. Future water demand is projected to heighten the current stress on groundwater resources. This combination of factors has led to concerns about the availability of freshwater to meet domestic, agricultural, industrial, mining, and environmental needs. To ensure the water security of the Nation, currently [2016] untapped water sources may need to be developed.

Brackish groundwater is an unconventional water source that may offer a partial solution to current and future water demands. In support of the national census of water resources, the U.S. Geological Survey completed the national brackish groundwater assessment to better understand the occurrence and characteristics of brackish groundwater in the United States as a potential water resource. Analyses completed as part of this assessment relied on previously collected data from multiple sources; no new data were collected. Compiled data included readily available information about groundwater chemistry, horizontal and vertical extents and hydrogeologic characteristics of principal aquifers (regionally extensive aquifers or aquifer systems that have the potential to be used as a source of potable water), and groundwater use. Although these data were obtained from a wide variety of sources, the compiled data are biased toward shallow and fresh groundwater resources; data representing groundwater that is at great depths and is saline were not as readily available.

One of the most important contributions of this assessment is the creation of a database containing chemical characteristics and aquifer information for the known areas with brackish groundwater in the United States. Previously published digital data relating to brackish groundwater resources were limited to a small number of State- and regional-level studies. Data sources for this assessment ranged from single publications to large datasets and from local studies to national assessments. Geochemical data included concentrations of dissolved solids, major ions, trace elements, nutrients, and radionuclides as well as physical properties of the water (pH, temperature, and specific conductance). Additionally, the database provides selected well information (location, yield, depth, and contributing aquifer) necessary for evaluating the water resource.

The assessment was divided into national-, regional-, and aquifer-scale analyses. National-scale analyses included evaluation of the three-dimensional distribution of observed dissolved-solids concentrations in groundwater, the three-dimensional probability of brackish groundwater occurrence, and the geochemical characteristics of saline (greater than or equal to 1,000 mg/L of dissolved solids) groundwater resources. Regional-scale analyses included a summary of the percentage of observed grid cell volume in the region that was occupied by brackish groundwater within the mixture of air, water, and rock for multiple depth intervals. Aquifer-scale analyses focused primarily on four regions that contained the largest amounts of observed brackish groundwater and included a generalized description of hydrogeologic characteristics from previously published work; the distribution of dissolved-solids concentrations; considerations for developing brackish groundwater resources, including a summary of other chemical characteristics that may limit the use of brackish groundwater and the ability of sampled wells producing brackish groundwater to yield useful amounts of water; and the amount of saline groundwater being used in 2010.

Anderson Dam (California) is Seismically Unstable

“The water district that manages Silicon Valley’s 235-foot-high earthen Anderson Dam, which holds 29 billion gallons of water, has acknowledged that the dam’s embankments are seismically unstable and could catastrophically liquefy in a major earthquake.” click here

Water Transfer Rule upheld by 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in a 2-1 ruling reversed a lower court finding EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) rule exempting the transfer of water from one basin to another from discharge permits is a reasonable interpretation of the law, and therefore should be upheld under the agency judicial deference doctrine known as Chevron. The full ruling is here. An excerpt is below:

Before: SACK, CHIN, and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.

In 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency promulgated the ʺWater Transfers Rule,ʺ which formalized the Agencyʹs longstanding position that water transfers are not subject to regulation under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program established decades ago by the Clean Water Act.  Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs, a consortium of environmental conservation and sporting organizations and several state, provincial, and tribal governments, challenged the Water Transfers Rule by bringing suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Agency and its Administrator.  After a variety of persons and entities on both sides of the issue intervened, the district court (Kenneth M. Karas, Judge) granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the ground that the Water Transfers Rule, although entitled to deferential review under the two‐step framework established by Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), could not survive judicial scrutiny because it was based on an unreasonable interpretation of the Clean Water Act.  The district court accordingly vacated the Water Transfers Rule and remanded it to the Agency for further assessment.  We conclude that the Water Transfers Rule is based on a reasonable interpretation of the Clean Water Act and therefore entitled to Chevron deference.  Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is REVERSED.

California Drought is Getting Worse



“With a winter of phenomenal heavy rains and snow (over 400 inches so far at some Sierra Nevada locations), Lake Oroville 65 miles north of Sacramento is literally entering uncharted territory in its 50 year history.”

China’s Plan for Groundwater Pollution Control and Remediation

Han D, Currell MJ, Cao G. Deep challenges for China’s war on water pollution. Environ Pollut. 2016 Sep 6. pii: S0269-7491(16)31036-3. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.08.078.

China’s Central government has released an ambitious plan to tackle the nation’s water pollution crisis. However, this is inhibited by a lack of data, particularly for groundwater. We compiled and analyzed water quality classification data from publicly available government sources, further revealing the scale and extent of the crisis. We also compiled nitrate data in shallow and deep groundwater from a range of literature sources, covering 52 of China’s groundwater systems; the most comprehensive national-scale assessment yet. Nitrate pollution at levels exceeding the US EPA’s maximum contaminant level (10 mg/L NO3N) occurs at the 90th percentile in 25 of 36 shallow aquifers and 10 out of 37 deep or karst aquifers. Isotopic compositions of groundwater nitrate (δ15N and δ18ONO3 values ranging from -14.9‰ to 35.5‰ and -8.1‰ to 51.0‰, respectively) indicate many nitrate sources including soil nitrogen, agricultural fertilizers, untreated wastewater and/or manure, and locally show evidence of de-nitrification. From these data, it is clear that contaminated groundwater is ubiquitous in deep aquifers as well as shallow groundwater (and surface water). Deep aquifers contain water recharged tens of thousands of years before present, long before widespread anthropogenic nitrate contamination. This groundwater has therefore likely been contaminated due to rapid bypass flow along wells or other conduits. Addressing the issue of well condition is urgently needed to stop further pollution of China’s deep aquifers, which are some of China’s most important drinking water sources. China’s new 10-point Water Pollution Plan addresses previous shortcomings, however, control and remediation of deep groundwater pollution will take decades of sustained effort.

Water Quality of Budeasa Reservoir-Arges River, Romania

Ion A, Vladescu L, Badea IA, Comanescu L. Monitoring and evaluation of the water quality of Budeasa Reservoir-Arges River, Romania. Environmental monitoring and assessment. 2016 Sep;188(9):535.

The purpose of this study was to monitor and record the specific characteristics and properties of the Arges River water in the Budeasa Reservoir (the principal water resources of municipal tap water of the big Romanian city Pitesti and surrounding area) for a period of 5 years (2005-2009). The monitored physical and chemical parameters were turbidity, pH, electrical conductivity, chemical oxygen demand, 5 days biochemical oxygen demand, free dissolved oxygen, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia nitrogen, chloride, total dissolved iron ions, sulfate, manganese, phosphate, total alkalinity, and total hardness. The results were discussed in correlation with the precipitation values during the study. Monthly and annual values of each parameter determined in the period January 2005-December 2009 were used as a basis for the classification of Budeasa Reservoir water, according to the European legislation, as well as for assessing its quality as a drinking water supply. Principal component analysis and Pearson correlation coefficients were used as statistical procedures in order to evaluate the data obtained during this study.

Louisiana Flooding Not Related to Climate Change

“Is man-made global warming to blame for the heavy rainfall and flooding in Louisiana? Former Vice President Al Gore sure thinks so.” here