Arsenic (As) and nitrate (NO3) are common contaminants in groundwater that are introduced through a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources. In this study we investigated the sources and distribution of As and NO3 in Goshen Valley, Utah, USA. Goshen Valley is a semi-arid alluvial basin that is impacted by geothermal waters, agriculture, urban development, and legacy mining. In this study we sampled surface water, springs, and wells to analyze concentrations of major ions, trace elements (As, B, Ba, Ca, Fe, K, Li, Mg, Mn, Mo, Pb, Si, Sr, Zn), and stable isotopes in water (δ18O and δD). A subset of samples were also analyzed for 87Sr/86Sr, δ34S, and tritium (3H). Major ion concentrations showed high spatial variability ranging from freshwater to brines, with the highest concentrations found in springs discharging from playa sediments. Likewise, the highest trace element concentrations, including As, were found in the playa-impacted springs. Elevated NO3 concentrations were found in springs and wells in agricultural areas of the valley. δ18O and δD values range from -0.90238 to -17.6 and -37.0891 to -134.5 respectively and represent that the valley contains old groundwater, evaporative surface water, and mixed water signatures in multiple wells. Tritium values range from 0.5 to 7.8 and further show the diversity of water in the valley by indicating old, young, and mixtures of old and young waters. Variations in 87Sr/86Sr were used to evaluate flowpaths of waters with elevated As. 87Sr/86Sr ratios suggest that the groundwater has interacted with a mixture of lithologic units including Tertiary volcanics, Paleozoic carbonates, and Quaternary alluvial/lacustrine fill. Correlations with As and playa affected springs indicate playa sediments as a major As source. The As found in wells has no apparent elemental correlations or spatial patterns and is likely due to the naturally occurring As in the valley alluvium and carbonate units. NO3 in the valley is concentrated in agricultural areas and is likely due to fertilizers, livestock, and alfalfa crops. Of all the potential contaminant sources, the data suggests that the major source of As is the saline playa soils and the major source of NO3 is agricultural activities in the valley.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



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naturally occurring arsenic, anthropogenic nitrate contamination, semi-arid alluvial basin, Goshen Valley



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Geology Commons