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Data for Groundwater Age in the Western Principal Aquifers, 2004-2018

September 26, 2019

Groundwater age distribution and susceptibility to natural and anthropogenic contaminants were assessed for selected principal aquifers of the Western United States: the Central Valley aquifer system (CVAL), the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers (BNRF), the Rio Grande aquifer system (RIOG), the High Plains aquifer (HPAQ), the Columbia Plateau basaltic-rock aquifers (CLPT), and the Colorado Plateaus aquifers (COPL). Groundwater ages were estimated by calibration of environmental tracers (tritium, tritiogenic helium-3, chlorofluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, carbon-14 and radiogenic helium-4) to lumped parameter models (LPMs) for 1,353 samples from 1,182 sample locations. Groundwater samples were collected from wells (mainly drinking-water) in the CVAL between 2004 and 2018 as part of the California State Water Resources Control Board Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment Priority Basin Project (GAMA-PBP) and the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project; and in the BNRF in 2013, the RIOG in 2014 and 2015, the HPAQ between 2014 and 2017, the CPLT in 2016, and the COPL in 2017 as part of NAWQA. Table 1 reports the primary results of this assessment and it contains condensed results from dissolved gas modeling and calculated environmental tracer concentrations; results of the tritium age classification, susceptibility index, and mean groundwater age of each sample in this assessment; and water level and well construction information for some wells. Calibrated lumped parameter models provide the optimal mean age and mixing parameter(s) used to compute the distribution of ages that explain the measured tracer concentrations in a sample. Tables 2 and 3 provide results in support of Table 1. Table 2 reports detailed results for the calibration of dissolved gas models to neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and nitrogen. Calibrated dissolved gas models provide the optimal water temperature, excess air, entrapped air, fractionation of gases, and excess nitrogen gas (mainly from denitrification) that explain the measured dissolved gases in a sample. Table 3 reports measured concentrations and the detailed calculations of environmental tracer concentrations derived from the dissolved gas modeling results in Table 2. Calculated concentrations of environmental tracers that can be used in groundwater age calculations are the dry air mixing ratio of sulfur hexafluoride or chlorofluorocarbons, tritiogenic helium-3, which is the concentration of helium-3 from the decay of tritium, and radiogenic helium-4, which is the amount of helium generated from the decay of uranium and thorium in aquifer sediments. In addition to these three tables, two ancillary tables are included to provide more detailed information about the fields and the abbreviations used in tables 1-3.