Evaluation of long-term (1960-2010) groundwater fluoride contamination in Texas

J Environ Qual. 2014 Jul;43(4):1404-16. doi: 10.2134/jeq2013.04.0133.


Groundwater quality degradation is a major threat to sustainable development in Texas. The aim of this study was to elucidate spatiotemporal patterns of groundwater fluoride (F) contamination in different water use classes in 16 groundwater management areas in Texas between 1960 and 2010. Groundwater F concentration data were obtained from the Texas Water Development Board and aggregated over a decadal scale. Our results indicate that observations exceeding the drinking water quality threshold of World Health Organization (1.5 mg F L) and secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL) (2 mg F L) of the USEPA increased from 26 and 19% in the 1960s to 37 and 23%, respectively, in the 2000s. In the 2000s, F observations > SMCL among different water use classes followed the order: irrigation (39%) > domestic (20%) > public supply (17%). Extent and mode of interaction between F and other water quality parameters varied regionally. In western Texas, high F concentrations were prevalent at shallower depths (<50 m) and were positively correlated with bicarbonate (HCO) and sulfate anions. In contrast, in southern and southeastern Texas, higher F concentrations occurred at greater depths (>50 m) and were correlated with HCO and chloride anions. A spatial pattern has become apparent marked by "excess" F in western Texas groundwaters as compared with "inadequate" F contents in rest of the state. Groundwater F contamination in western Texas was largely influenced by groundwater mixing and evaporative enrichment as compared with water-rock interaction and mineral dissolution in the rest of the state.