As part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, surface-water and ground-water samples were collected in 1994 and 1995 for analysis of common constituents, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, trace elements, radioactivity, volatile organic compounds, and pesticides to characterize surface- water quality and shallow ground-water quality and to determine factors affecting water quality in the Rincon Valley, south-central New Mexico. Samples of surface water were collected from three sites on the Rio Grande and from sites on three agricultural drains in the Rincon Valley in January 1994 and 1995, April 1994, and October 1994. Ground-water samples were collected in late April and early May 1994 from 30 shallow wells that were installed during the investigation.
Dissolved-solids concentrations in surface water ranged from 434 to 1,510 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Dissolved-solids concentrations were smallest in water from the Rio Grande below Caballo Dam and largest in the drains. Nitrite plus nitrate concentrations ranged from less than 0.05 to 3.3 mg/L as nitrogen, and ammonia concentrations ranged from less than 0.015 to 0.33 mg/L as nitrogen in surface-water samples.
Trace-element concentrations in surface water were significantly smaller than the acute-fisheries standards. One or more pesticides were detected in 34 of 37 surface-water samples. DCPA (dacthal) and metolachlor were the most commonly detected pesticides. No standards have been established for the pesticides analyzed for in this study.
Dissolved-solids concentrations in shallow ground water ranged from 481 to 3,630 mg/L. All but 2 of 30 samples exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level for dissolved solids of 500 mg/L. Water from about 73 percent of the wells sampled exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level of 250 mg/L for sulfate, and water from about 7 percent of the wells sampled exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant level of 250 mg/L for chloride. Nitrite plus nitrate concentrations ranged from less than 0.05 to 33 mg/L as nitrogen in shallow ground water. Water from about 17 percent of the well samples exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 10 mg/L as nitrogen for nitrite plus nitrate.
Trace-element concentrations in shallow ground water generally were small (1 to 10 micrograms per liter). The proposed maximum contaminant level of 20 micrograms per liter for uranium was exceeded in about 13 percent of the samples. The secondary maximum contaminant level of 300 micrograms per liter for iron was exceeded in about 17 percent of the samples and of 50 micrograms per liter for manganese was exceeded in about 83 percent of the samples. Samples from about 23 percent of the wells exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 15 picocuries per liter for gross alpha activity.
One or more pesticides were detected in water from 12 of 30 wells sampled. The pesticides or pesticide metabolites diazinon, metolachlor, napropamide, p,p'-DDE, and prometon were detected in one or more samples. Metolachlor and prometon were the most commonly detected pesticides. Health advisories for the pesticides detected in shallow ground water (no maximum contaminant levels have been established for the pesticides detected) are 10 to 300 times larger than the concentrations detected. Infiltration, evaporation, and transpiration of irrigation water are important factors affecting the concentrations of common constituents in shallow ground water in the Rincon Valley. Dissolution and precipitation of minerals and mixing of shallow ground water and inflow of ground water from adjacent areas also affect the composition of shallow ground water and water in the drains.
Relatively large nitrite plus nitrate concentrations in several shallow ground-water samples indicate leaching of fertilizers in some areas of the Rincon Valley. Molybdenum and uranium concentrations in part of the Rincon Valley are affected by inflow of ground water to the valley from adjacent areas. A large amount of the gross alpha activity in shallow ground water is from uranium isotopes. Gross beta activity increases with dissolved potassium, indicating that part of the dissolved gross beta activity is from potassium-40.
The detection of a larger number of different pesticides in surface water than in ground water indicates that pesticides are entering surface water as runoff from fields or that the number of ground-water samples collected and the time of year that the samples were collected did not adequately represent the composition of ground water in the Rincon Valley that discharges to the drains.
On the basis of pesticide concentrations detected in shallow ground water in the Rincon Valley, large amounts of the pesticides analyzed for are not leaching from land surface into ground water. There is some indication that several pesticides are leaching downward into shallow ground water (metolachlor and prometon especially); however, the concentrations detected in shallow ground water are significantly smaller than any standards or health advisories issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Abstract from Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4188
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