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Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2016–2018

March 22, 2021

The Navajo (N) aquifer is the primary source of groundwater in the 5,400-square-mile Black Mesa area in northeastern Arizona. Availability of water is an important issue in the Black Mesa area because of continued water requirements for industrial and municipal use by a growing population and because of its arid climate. Precipitation in the area typically ranges from less than 6 to more than 16 inches per year depending on location.

The U.S. Geological Survey water-monitoring program in the Black Mesa area began in 1971 and provides information about the long-term effects of groundwater withdrawals from the N aquifer for industrial and municipal uses. This report presents results of data collected as part of the monitoring program in the Black Mesa area from November 2016 to December 2018. The monitoring program includes measurements of (1) groundwater withdrawals (pumping), (2) groundwater levels, (3) spring discharge, (4) surface-water discharge, and (5) groundwater and surface-water chemistry.

In calendar year 2017, total groundwater withdrawals were 3,710 acre-feet (acre-ft), industrial withdrawals were 1,110 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 2,600 acre-ft. In calendar year 2018, total groundwater withdrawals were 3,670 acre-ft, industrial withdrawals were 1,170 acre-ft, and municipal withdrawals were 2,500 acre-ft. Total withdrawals during 2017 and 2018 were about 49 percent less than total withdrawals in 2005 because of Peabody Western Coal Company’s discontinued use of water to transport coal in a coal slurry pipeline.

From the prestress period (prior to 1965) to 2018, measured water levels available for comparison in wells completed in the unconfined areas of the N aquifer within the Black Mesa area declined in 8 of 14 wells, the changes ranged from +12.1 feet to −39.4 feet, and the median change was -0.6 feet. Water levels also declined in 15 of 18 wells measured in the confined area of the aquifer. The median change for the confined area of the aquifer was −40.2 feet (ft), with changes ranging from +14.2 ft to −189.0 ft. From the prestress period to 2018, the median water-level change for all 32 wells in both the confined and unconfined areas was −9.4 ft.

Spring flow was measured at four springs in 2017 and 2018. Flow fluctuated during the period of record for Burro Spring and Pasture Canyon Spring, but a decreasing trend was statistically significant (p<0.05) at Moenkopi School Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso. Discharge at Burro Spring has remained relatively constant since it was first measured in the 1980s and discharge at Pasture Canyon Spring has fluctuated for the period of record.

Continuous records of surface-water discharge in the Black Mesa area were collected from streamflow-gaging stations at the following sites: Moenkopi Wash at Moenkopi 09401260 (1976 to 2018), Dinnebito Wash near Sand Springs 09401110 (1993 to 2018), Polacca Wash near Second Mesa 09400568 (1994 to 2018), and Pasture Canyon Springs 09401265 (2004 to 2018). Median winter flows (November through February) of each water year were used as an index of the amount of groundwater discharge at the above-named sites. For the period of record, the median winter flows have generally remained constant at Dinnebito Wash and Polacca Wash, whereas a decreasing trend was indicated at Moenkopi Wash and Pasture Canyon Springs.

In 2017 and 2018, water samples collected from two wells, four springs, and three streams in the Black Mesa area were analyzed for selected chemical constituents. The results from wells and springs were compared with previous analyses from the same wells and springs. At the Peabody 2 well, a significant (p<0.05) decreasing trend in dissolved solids over time was found, while concentrations of dissolved solids have not varied significantly (p>0.05) at the Kykotsmovi PM2 well. Dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate concentrations increased at Moenkopi School Spring during the more than 30 years of record at that site. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Pasture Canyon Spring have not varied significantly (p>0.05) since the early 1980s, and there is no increasing or decreasing trend in those data. Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and sulfate at Burro Spring and Unnamed Spring near Dennehotso have varied for the period of record, but there is no statistical trend in the data. Baseflow water chemistry samples were collected from Moenkopi, Dinnebito, and Polacca washes in 2017. Samples from all three washes had total-dissolved solids concentrations higher than is typically found in the N aquifer water.

Publication Year 2021
Title Groundwater, surface-water, and water-chemistry data, Black Mesa area, northeastern Arizona—2016–2018
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211124
Authors Jon P. Mason
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2021-1124
Index ID ofr20211124
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Arizona Water Science Center