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Quality of groundwater used for public supply in the continental United States: A comprehensive assessment

October 21, 2022

The presence of contaminants in a source water can constrain its suitability for drinking. The quality of groundwater used for public supply was assessed in 25 principal aquifers (PAs) that account for 84% of groundwater pumped for public supply in the U.S. (89.6 million people on a proportional basis). Each PA was sampled across its lateral extent using an equal-area grid, typically with 60 wells per PA. Samples were analyzed for 502 constituents, of which 374 had either a regulatory or nonregulatory human health benchmark (HHB). Nationally, elevated concentrations (relative to HHBs) of geogenic constituents have a larger effect than anthropogenic constituents, as indicated by three metrics: detection frequency, 35% versus 8.1%; prevalence (based on area), 41% versus 6.4%; and population potentially affected, 31.2 million versus 7.1 million. Prevalence of any constituent at elevated concentrations was high─40 to 75%─in PAs comprising unconsolidated sediment (eight PAs) and sandstone or interbedded sandstones and carbonates (four PAs) in the West and Central Interior. Prevalence was lower─15 to 35%─in PAs comprising sediment and sedimentary rocks along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts (four PAs), carbonates distributed across the continental U.S. (seven PAs), and hard rock (two PAs).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Quality of groundwater used for public supply in the continental United States: A comprehensive assessment
DOI 10.1021/acsestwater.2c00390
Authors Kenneth Belitz, Miranda S. Fram, Bruce D. Lindsey, Paul Stackelberg, Laura M. Bexfield, Tyler D. Johnson, Bryant Jurgens, James A. Kingsbury, Peter B. McMahon, Neil M. Dubrovsky
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology - Water
Index ID 70237805
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; Colorado Water Science Center; National Water Quality Assessment Program; New Mexico Water Science Center; WMA - Earth System Processes Division