California GAMA Program: Sources and transport of nitrate in shallow groundwater in the Llagas Basin of Santa Clara County, California

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A critical component of the State Water Resource Control Board's Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program is to assess the major threats to groundwater resources that supply drinking water to Californians (Belitz et al., 2004). Nitrate is the most pervasive and intractable contaminant in California groundwater and is the focus of special studies under the GAMA program. This report presents results of a study of nitrate contamination in the aquifer beneath the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, CA, in the Llagas Subbasin of Santa Clara County, where high nitrate levels affect several hundred private domestic wells. The main ... continued below

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PDF-file: 37 pages; size: 2.6 Mbytes

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Moran, J E; McNab, W; Esser, B; Hudson, G; Carle, S; Beller, H et al. June 29, 2005.

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A critical component of the State Water Resource Control Board's Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program is to assess the major threats to groundwater resources that supply drinking water to Californians (Belitz et al., 2004). Nitrate is the most pervasive and intractable contaminant in California groundwater and is the focus of special studies under the GAMA program. This report presents results of a study of nitrate contamination in the aquifer beneath the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, CA, in the Llagas Subbasin of Santa Clara County, where high nitrate levels affect several hundred private domestic wells. The main objectives of the study are: (1) to identify the main source(s) of nitrate that issue a flux to the shallow regional aquifer (2) to determine whether denitrification plays a role in the fate of nitrate in the subbasin and (3) to assess the impact that a nitrate management plan implemented by the local water agency has had on the flux of nitrate to the regional aquifer. Analyses of 56 well water samples for major anions and cations, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes of nitrate, dissolved excess nitrogen, tritium and groundwater age, and trace organic compounds, show that synthetic fertilizer is the most likely source of nitrate in highly contaminated wells, and that denitrification is not a significant process in the fate of nitrate in the subbasin except in the area of recycled water application. In addition to identifying contaminant sources, these methods offer a deeper understanding of how the severity and extent of contamination are affected by hydrogeology and groundwater management practices. In the Llagas subbasin, the nitrate problem is amplified in the shallow aquifer because it is highly vulnerable with high vertical recharge rates and rapid lateral transport, but the deeper aquifers are relatively more protected by laterally extensive aquitards. Artificial recharge delivers low-nitrate water and provides a means of long-term remediation. Examination of nitrate concentration in relation to groundwater age indicates that the nitrate management plan has not yet resulted in a decrease in the flux of nitrate to the shallow aquifer in the areas tested.

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PDF-file: 37 pages; size: 2.6 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: UCRL-TR-213705
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/877834 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 877834
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc876354

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • June 29, 2005

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Nov. 22, 2016, 9:52 p.m.

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Moran, J E; McNab, W; Esser, B; Hudson, G; Carle, S; Beller, H et al. California GAMA Program: Sources and transport of nitrate in shallow groundwater in the Llagas Basin of Santa Clara County, California, report, June 29, 2005; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc876354/: accessed December 11, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.