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Dissolved Salt Concentrations Increasing in Some Public-Supply Water Wells
Released: 3/3/2011 11:00:00 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Susan Thiros 1-click interview
Phone: (801) 908-5063

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Concentrations of dissolved solids (salts and minerals) in groundwater from some wells used for public supply are increasing in Salt Lake Valley, Utah, according to a recently released report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Increasing dissolved solids in groundwater are a major concern in arid southwestern states because they can result in a loss of high-quality potable water from an already limited supply and raise concerns regarding sources and causes of the higher concentrations and their potential long-term effects on groundwater quality. Water with dissolved-solids concentrations greater than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) often has an objectionable taste and may need to be treated or blended with less mineralized water in order to be suitable for drinking. 

Although most water from public-supply wells in Salt Lake Valley contains naturally occurring salt and minerals, substantial increases in concentrations have been documented in some areas of the valley. Dissolved-solids concentrations in water from several wells on the valley’s east side have increased from less than 500 to more than 1,000 mg/L over a 20-year time span and represent a general trend of deteriorating groundwater quality.  Some of the wells in this area wells have already been abandoned due to the increasing concentration of dissolved solids. 

“During the past 20 years, the area of the aquifer containing dissolved-solids concentrations less than 500 mg/L has gotten smaller,” said USGS scientist Susan Thiros. “This area contains many public-supply wells because of the aquifer’s high yield and its high-quality water, but parts of it are vulnerable to increasing concentrations of dissolved solids." Pumping may have allowed poor-quality shallow groundwater to move downward to the part of the aquifer tapped by the public-supply wells or may have induced water to move laterally from adjacent areas, thus degrading the quality of water in the aquifer. 

The 6-page fact sheet "Decadal-Scale Changes in Dissolved-Solids Concentrations in Groundwater Used for Public Supply, Salt Lake Valley, Utah", published as USGS Fact Sheet 2010-3073, is available online.

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