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Occurrence of arsenic in ground water of the Middle Rio Grande Basin, central New Mexico

January 1, 2003

Chemical data from more than 400 ground-water sites in the Middle Rio Grande Basin of central New Mexico indicate that arsenic concentrations exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standard of 10 micrograms per liter across broad areas of the Santa Fe Group aquifer system, which is currently the almost exclusive source of drinking-water supply for residents of the basin. Identification of sources of arsenic to ground water of the basin is complicated by multiple sources of ground-water recharge that differ substantially in chemical composition. Establishment of a clear hydrologic framework for the basin was useful in interpreting the significance of patterns in arsenic concentration. This investigation indicates that there are two main sources of high-arsenic water to the Middle Rio Grande Basin. One primary source is related to silicic volcanism in the Jemez Mountains to the north, where dilute recharge water likely flows through rocks that have been altered by contact with geothermal fluids. The other primary source is mineralized water of deep origin that mixes with shallower ground water in several locations around the basin, particularly along major structural features. Ground water that has not been affected by either of these two high-arsenic sources generally has low arsenic concentrations. In some areas of the basin, values of pH exceeding about 8.5 appear to contribute to elevated arsenic concentrations through desorption of arsenic from metal oxides.

Publication Year 2003
Title Occurrence of arsenic in ground water of the Middle Rio Grande Basin, central New Mexico
DOI 10.1007/0-306-47956-7_11
Authors L.N. Plummer
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70199466
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program