Southwestern U.S. aquifers contain excessive arsenic, nitrate

Recent data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that many basin-fill aquifers in the southwestern region of the United States may contain excessive amounts of arsenic and nitrate, according to Water World. Aquifers are important sources of drinking water for a majority of residents in these areas, prompting worries that the amount of unwanted contaminants and chemicals in the drinking water will evolve into a more worrying epidemic.

According to the data, groundwater beneath approximately 43 percent of the area may equal or exceed industry standards for arsenic. About 2.4 percent of the area may equal or exceed drinking-water standards for nitrate. These standards were established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act, where an excess of arsenic, nitrate and other compounds found in groundwater could lead to cautions.

"The alluvial basins of the American Southwest can provide a valuable water resource to growing populations who often lack other sources of fresh water," U.S. Geological Survey  Director Marcia McNutt told the news source. "However, the results of this modeling study raise a cautionary flag for private well owners of the need to test water to ensure its safety and to take action to remediate any contamination that is found."

Arsenic found in drinking water supplies is of particular concern to consumers and environmental experts alike. The naturally occurring mineral has several harmful properties and its presence in water can often lead to skin and bladder epidemics, as well as potentially cause lung cancer. According to The Huffington Post, people who drink arsenic-contaminated water at 10 parts per billion would have a 1-in-300 risk of developing cancer over their lifetimes.

More worryingly is that, according to the news source, arsenic is beginning to emerge in other food items beyond just drinking water. Rice, rice syrup and certain fruit juices have been revealed to demonstrate varying amounts of arsenic within. Much of this has to do with soil contamination from growing the fruits and plants. Rinsing rice and fruits thoroughly before consumption can make a big difference in removing arsenic and other harmful compounds.

Some of the specific geological regions pinpointed by the U.S. Geological Survey as being vulnerable spots include several basis in central Arizona near Phoenix, the southern part of the Californias Central Valley and several basins near Los Angeles, the news source reports. The primary states involved in the survey were Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. Experts were particularly concerned by the fact that most of the areas of high arsenic concentrations were in sparsely populated rangelands, where private wells were more common. 

One good method of ensuring that your drinking water supply remains free of contaminants like arsenic and nitrate is to use bottleless water coolers. These water coolers from Quench use UV treatment technologies to remove a majority of the harmful elements in drinking water.