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Effects of agriculture and urbanization on quality of shallow ground water in the arid to semiarid western United States, 1993-2004

September 24, 2007

Within the Western United States, agricultural and rural lands are being developed into commercial and residential areas. With changes in land use and increasing population, greater demands are placed on water resources for agricultural, industrial, and domestic supplies. Many areas in the Western United States rely exclusively on ground water as their source of drinking water. Areas that use surface-water resources often need to supplement this supply with ground water.

Generally, shallow ground water is susceptible to fluctuating water quality within relatively short time scales and therefore can be used as an indicator of land-use stresses that may, in time, affect deep aquifer systems. This regional study examines data on shallow ground-water quality collected from 1993 to 2004 from 273 agricultural and 181 urban wells from 7 U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment study units in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, south-central Colorado, and Utah. This report determines important influences that land-use practices may have on the quality of recently recharged ground water, which may ultimately affect deep water supplies within the region.

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