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Posts Tagged ‘High Plains aquifer’

‘Two Major US Aquifers Contaminated by Natural Uranium’

Posted by feww on August 17, 2015

Natural Uranium Contamination in Major U.S. Aquifers Linked to Nitrate: Study

About 2 million people across the Great Plains and California reside above aquifer sites that are contaminated with natural uranium, mobilized by human-contributed nitrate, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

High Plains (HP) and Central Valley (CV) aquifers. The intensity of groundwater contamination via uranium (red) and nitrate (blue) is highlighted in two major aquifers and other sites across the United States. Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Abstract: Groundwater geochemical data collected from two major U.S. aquifers, High Plains (HP) and Central Valley (CV), revealed naturally occurring groundwater uranium (U) exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level (MCL = 30 μg/L) across 22375 km2 where 1.9 million people live. Analysis of geochemical parameters revealed a moderately strong correlation between U and nitrate, a common groundwater contaminant, as well as alkalinity and calcium [Spearman’s rho (ρ) ≥ 0.30; p < 0.001]. Nitrate is recognized to alter U solubility by oxidative dissolution of reduced U(IV) minerals. Approximately 78% of areas where U concentrations were interpolated above the MCL were correlated to the presence of nitrate (Pearson’s r ≥ 0.5; p < 0.05). Shallow groundwater was determined to be the most susceptible to co-contamination (HP, ρ = 0.46; CV, ρ = 0.52). Together, these results indicate that nitrate, a primary contaminant, should be considered as a factor leading to secondary groundwater U contamination in addition to the recognized role of alkalinity and calcium.

Excerpts from the Introduction: “Uranium (U) contamination of groundwater has been primarily associated with anthropogenic activities such as mining, milling, nuclear testing, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. However, groundwater U concentrations across the United States exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)… The High Plains (HP) and Central Valley (CV) aquifers, two of the largest and most productive aquifers in the world, are among aquifers with high concentrations of dissolved U in groundwater… In addition to being an important source of drinking water, these aquifers are also mined to irrigate 56700 km2 of cropland accounting for 1/6 of all U.S. agricultural annual revenue. Drought has placed an increased reliance on groundwater, impacting not only quantity but also degradation of groundwater quality.

Full paper posted at

Jason Nolan and Karrie A. Weber
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0340, United States
‡ School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0118, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2015, 2 (8), pp 215–220
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00174
Publication Date (Web): July 31, 2015
Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society

ACS AuthorChoice – This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes.

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Drought in Kansas Damages Aquifers

Posted by feww on March 30, 2012

Kansas drought in 2011 has caused severe declines in groundwater levels

Ogallala Aquifer in southwest Kansas dropped an average 3.78 feet in 2011, Kansas Geological Survey said. That’s compared to a decline of 3 feet in 2010 and 1.39 feet in 2009.

Disaster Calendar 2012 – March 30

Mass die-offs resulting from human impact and the planetary response to the anthropogenic assault could occur by early 2016.  SYMBOLIC COUNTDOWN: 1,447 Days Left to the ‘Worst Day’ in Human History

  • Kansas, USA.  Kansas drought in 2011 has caused severe declines in groundwater levels.

U.S. Seasonal Drought Map.

    • The drought began in the fall of 2010.
    • Much of Kansas received between 25 to 50 percent of normal rainfall.
    • Ogallala Aquifer in southwest Kansas dropped an average 3.78 feet in 2011, Kansas Geological Survey said. That’s compared to a decline of 3 feet in 2010 and 1.39 feet in 2009.
    • Thew is a nearly 174,000-square-mile underground cache of water that spreads across parts of Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming – one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world.
    • “The growing season was probably the worst since the 1930s,” said Kansas Geological Survey water-data manager. “It was just awful.”
    • “It’s a change from 80 years ago when, during the Great Depression, hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers went out of business after drought and dust storms damaged their crops. Back then, there was little irrigation relief or knowledge of the magnitude of the reservoir underneath the surface,” said a report.
    • The Ogallala Aquifer (aka, the High Plains Aquifer,) is one of the world’s largest aquifers, covering an area of about 450,000 km² (174,000 mi²).
    • Named after the town of Ogallala, Nebraska, the vast but shallow aquifer is located beneath the Great Plains covering portion of eight states of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
    • Ogallala yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the U.S.
    • The aquifer has been declining for decades
    • “High Plains ground water is used primarily to grow crops for the Nation; irrigation accounts for 94 percent of the ground-water use. The second largest ground-water use, 418 million gallons per day (Mgal/day), is for domestic drinking water. Almost 2 million people rely on the High Plains aquifer for their drinking water. Surface water is used for drinking water primarily in the larger cities near the periphery of the High Plains aquifer (Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Lubbock, Odessa, and Amarillo, Texas). Other uses of ground water include livestock (222 Mgal/day), mining (210 Mgal/day), and industry (155 Mgal/day).” USGS said.

Water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer, predevelopment to 2005 (modified from McGuire, 2007). Map shows the areas of substantial water-level changes in the aquifer from the time prior to substantial ground-water irrigation development (predevelopment or about 1950) to 2005 Source: USGS

Water-Level Changes, Predevelopment to 2005

  • The map of water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer from predevelopment to 2005  was generated using methods described by McGuire (2007). The map is based on water levels from 3,682 wells, which were measured in predevelopment and in 2005, and other previously published data in areas with few predevelopment water levels. The areas with few predevelopment water levels are in the central part of the Nebraska Panhandle, west-central Nebraska, and southeastern Wyoming.
  • The water-level changes from predevelopment to 2005 ranged between a rise of 84 feet and a decline of 277 feet. Area-weighted, average water-level change from predevelopment to 2005 was a decline of 12.8 feet. Approximately 25 percent of the aquifer area had more than 10 feet of water-level decline from predevelopment to 2005; 17 percent had more than 25 feet of water-level decline, and 9 percent had more than 50 feet of water-level decline. Approximately 2 percent of the aquifer area had more than 10 feet of water-level rise from predevelopment to 2005 (McGuire, 2007).

Change in Water in Storage, Predevelopment to 2005

  • Total water in storage in 2005 was about 2,925 million acre-feet, which was a decline of about 253 million acre-feet (or 9 percent) since predevelopment. Water in storage for predevelopment was inferred from water in storage in 2000 and water-level changes from predevelopment to 2000. Changes in storage prior to predevelopment were not estimated (McGuire, 2007).

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