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Results of mineral, chemical, and sulfate isotopic analyses of water, soil, rocks, and soil extracts from the Pariette Draw Watershed, Uinta Basin, Utah

August 6, 2015

In 2010, Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Division of Water Quality (UDWQ, 2010) determined that water quality in Pariette Draw was in violation of Federal and State water quality criteria for total dissolved solids (TDS), selenium (Se), and boron (B). The measure of total dissolved solids is the sum of all the major ion concentrations in solution and in this case, the dominant ions are sodium (Na) and sulfate (SO4), which can form salts like thenardite (Na2SO4) and mirabilite (Na2SO4⋅H2O). The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (2010) classified the contamination as natural background and from nonpoint sources related to regional lithology and irrigation practices. Although the daily loads of the constituents of concern and water chemistry have been characterized for parts of the watershed, little is known about the controls that bedrock and soil mineralogy have on salt, Se, and B storage and the water-rock interactions that influence the mobility of these components in ground and surface waters. Studies in the Uncompahgre River watershed in Colorado by Tuttle and others (2014a, 2014b) show that salt derived from weathering of shale in a semiarid climate is stored in a variety of minerals that contribute solutes to runoff and surface waters based on a complex set of conditions such as water availability, geomorphic position (for example, topography controls the depth of salt accumulation in soils), water-table fluctuations, redox conditions, mineral dissolution kinetics, ion-exchange reactions, and secondary mineral formation. Elements like Se and B commonly reside in soluble salt phases, so knowledge of the behavior of salt minerals also sheds light on the behavior of associated contaminants.

The goal of this study was to establish a process-based understanding of salt, Se, and B behavior to address whether these contaminants can be better managed, or if uncontrollable natural processes will overwhelm any attempts to bring Pariette Draw into compliance with respect to recently established total maximum daily limits (TMDLs). We collected data to refine our knowledge about the role of rock weathering and soil formation in the transport and storage of salt in the watershed and to show how salt is cycled under irrigated and natural conditions. Our approach was to sample rock, soils, and sediment on irrigated and natural terrain for mineralogical analysis to determine the residence of salt and associated Se and B, classify minerals as primary (related to rock formation) or secondary weathering products, and characterize mineral dissolution kinetics. Mineral and chemical analyses and selective extractions of rocks and soils provide useful information in understanding solute movement and mineral dissolution/ formation. The resulting data are critical in determining residence of salt, Se, and B in weathered rock and soil and understanding the mobility during water-rock-soil interactions. This report summarizes our methods for sample and data collection and tabulates the mineral, chemical, and isotopic data collected.

Publication Year 2015
Title Results of mineral, chemical, and sulfate isotopic analyses of water, soil, rocks, and soil extracts from the Pariette Draw Watershed, Uinta Basin, Utah
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151132
Authors Jean Morrison, Michele L. Tuttle, Juli W. Fahy
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2015-1132
Index ID ofr20151132
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center