The development of a rural drinking water quality index

Material Information

The development of a rural drinking water quality index
Lockwood, Robin Allison
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
ix, 78 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of science)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Environmental sciences


Subjects / Keywords:
Drinking water -- Standards ( lcsh )
Water quality -- Measurement ( lcsh )
Water-supply, Rural -- Standards ( lcsh )
Drinking water -- Standards ( fast )
Water quality -- Measurement ( fast )
Water-supply, Rural -- Standards ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 73-78).
General Note:
Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Robin Allison Lockwood.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
747704469 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L547 2011m L62 ( lcc )

Full Text
Robin Allison Lockwood
B.S., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Science
Environmental Sciences

This thesis for Master of Science
degree by
Robin Allison Lockwood
has been approved
Casey D. Allen
Peter Anthamatten
5 AWl- Zell

Lockwood, Robin Allison (Master, Environmental Sciences)
The Development of a Rural Drinking Water Quality Index
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Casey D. Allen
Water remains an essential component to life, and ensuring safe drinking
water is mandatory to uphold its essential quality. In the United States, the
Environmental Protection Agencys Safe Drinking Water Act regulates all public
drinking water systems to ensure they meet healthful standards. However, this
does not include private wells, on which over 43 million people rely for drinking
water. Currently, private well owners must spend upwards of $200 to have a
water sample tested for basic water quality parameters. For many households,
especially in rural areas, this is not always an option, so well water goes
unmonitored until someone gets sick. In this thesis, I propose an easy to use, cost
efficient field test kit and rural drinking water quality index (RDWQI) that
provides baseline monitoring for drinking water. In order to develop a region-
specific index, certain factors had to be taken into account, such as local geology,
land use, and specific parameters that impact, including nitrate, pH, total
dissolved solids (TDS), conductivity, and arsenic. Field data was collected in

Southern and Southeastern Colorado at 24 separate sites in order to help test the
accuracy of the index. A Pearsons correlation matrix showed conductivity and
TDS were very linearly related, indicating the possibility of removing one of the
parameters from the index. CIS mapping helped show the overall study sites,
index scores, and relationship between agricultural intensification and nitrate
concentration. In regards to implementing this index, rural policy was examined
in regards to its shortcomings, history of informality, and recommendations for
future implications. Future research with this topic would include taking into
account seasonal variation in water quality, increasing the variability of testing
sites, and testing the ability of individual homeowners to use the test kit and
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Casey D. Allen

This thesis is dedicated to my loving parents for teaching me to always strive for
the best, keeping me grounded, and comforting me when I push myself too hard.

I would like to especially thank Dr. Casey Allen, my advisor, for all the time and
effort he has given towards this thesis. Through all the brainstorming, research,
and writers block, he helped me reach my goals. Thank you to my committee
members, Dr. Casey Allen, Dr. Peter Anthamatten, and Dr. Gregory Simon. Your
expertise and input were essential for the completion of this work.

1. Introduction..........................................................1
2. Introduction to Literature Review.....................................4
2.1 History of Drinking Water Treatment and Policy........................5
2.2 Geology of Colorado..................................................10
2.3 Land Use.............................................................16
2.4 Parameters..........................................................18
2.4.1 Nitrate............................................................18
2.4.2 Coliform...........................................................20
2.4.3 Other Parameters...................................................21
2.5 The Issue of Rural Policy...........................................23
2.5.1 Historical Trends and Values of Rural Citizens.....................24
2.5.2 History of Rural Policy Issues.....................................26
2.5.3 Philosophies of Rural Policy.......................................29
2.6 Indices.............................................................31
3. Introduction to Methods..............................................36

3.1 Site Selection.....................................................37
3.2 Safety Protocols...................................................38
3.3 Field Data Collection..............................................39
3.3.1 Criteria for Parameters Chosen...................................40
3.4 Analyses Techniques................................................44
4. Results and Analysis...............................................46
5. Conclusions and Recommendations....................................51
5.1 Discussion of Analyses...........................................51
5.2 Societal Applications..............................................52
5.3 Future Work and Shortcomings.......................................55
A. Postcard...........................................................58
B. Questionnaire......................................................59
C. Water Quality Report...............................................60
D. IRB Exemption Letter...............................................61
E. Raw Data...........................................................62
F. Comparison of Lab Results to Field Results.........................65
G. Index..............................................................67
H. Instructions for Field Kit Use.....................................69

2.1 Colorados Geology.....................................................10
2.2 High Plains Aquifer....................................................11
2.3 Denver Basin Aquifer...................................................12
3.1 Extent of Study Sites..................................................38
4.1 Interpolation Map......................................................46
4.2 Best Fit Line..........................................................47
4.3 Agriculture Intensification and Nitrate................................48
4.4 Index Scores of Study Sites............................................50

4.1 Pearsons correlation for index parameters...........................49
E. l Raw field data.......................................................62
F. l Field data for lab sample............................................66
G. l Rural drinking water quality index (RDWQI)..........................67

1. Introduction
Used for almost every part of life, water remains an essential compound.
In the United States, the Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted to ensure that
public water systems supplied clean, healthful water to all citizens living in
urban and suburban areas. For rural areas, however, many citizens are not
connected to public water systems. Over 43 million people in the United States
use domestic wells (roughly 15 million wells), and over 500,000 Coloradans use
domestic wells for potable water (DeSimone 2009). With the Safe Drinking
Water Act only regulating public water systems, these private wells go
unregulated, which in many cases, also means they go untested for potentially
harmful contaminants. Currently, in order to receive water testing, a
homeowner must send their water samples to a private lab, paying sometimes
more than $200 for a standard test packageand they also must collect the
sample a certain way for the testing to be valid.
The goal of this project centers on the development of a Rural Drinking
Water Quality Index (RDWQI) that can be used by communities and individuals
to screen the quality of their private well water. For the index to be effective it

must be both easy-to-use and cost effective for rural households that would
otherwise not get their water tested. The only other component needed besides
this index is a field kit filled with fairly inexpensive, accurate, and easy-to-use
equipment allowing for in situ testing resulting in a valid and meaningful
While other water quality indices exist, many are created for overall
stream water, neglecting the health components corresponding to drinking
water quality. Additionally, most are created using a standard system of sub-
index development, a procedure that is outlined further in my review of
literature. My RDWQIoutlined in this thesisdoes not follow the standard
two-step formula, but rather, takes the form of a checklist. Again, this is to
ensure ease of use for an individual homeowner. The purpose of this index is to
act as a primary screening mechanism for their drinking water quality, while
also empowering them to take an active role in the process, decidingbased on
specific, scientific parameterswhether they need to spend more money for
further testing and/or possible mitigation.
This thesis begins with a review of the pertinent, related literature. Since
this subject is quite interdisciplinary, the literature review consists of drinking
water policy history, geology and soil type as factors in groundwater quality,
land use, and an in-depth appraisal of the main parameters used in creating the

index. It also explores issues surrounding rural identities and rural
policymaking and reviews the use and importance of indices. As location plays a
key role in this study, the methods section begins with an exploration of the site
selection and data collection parameters, as well as all safety protocols
observed in the field. This section also includes a review of how the main index
parameters were selected. Then, to better understand my overall RDWQI
indicators, I offer general statistical analyses of the index parameters, including
Pearsons correlation results. Finally, before offering a succinct conclusion and
recommendations for future research, alongside shortcomings of the study, I
discuss my use of GIS for not solely map creation, but also for visual spatial
representation and analysis of my index's overall development.

2. Introduction to Literature Review
The development of a rural drinking water quality index (RDWQI)
encompasses many areas of study, both scientifically and socially. To illustrate
this, 1 first explore the importance of having a strong understanding of drinking
water treatment and policy. Second, in order to develop an index unique to
rural wells of Colorado, I take into consideration the geology and land use
practices of the area. Third, researching each factor used in the index yields a
strong comprehension of the contaminants nature and capabilities of that
component as a measurement tool, and 1 discuss each main parameter at length,
including nitrate, coliform, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and arsenic.
Fourth, because the societal aspect of developing a useful RDWQI must include
an understanding of rural identities as well as the concept of rural policy and
issues that arise from these policies, I expound on these topics from both
historical and philosophical perspectives. Fifth, I address rural poverty and how
it relates to the inability of urban policy transposition, ending with a discussion
of community-based management as a possible framework for informal rural
policy. The literature review then concludes with an appraisal of other indices,
including those that relate to my RDWQI.

2.1 History of Drinking Water Treatment and Policy
Human civilizations have always required water, necessitating water
systems in some form or another to always be available. The earliest water
treatments were created for aesthetic reasons, as early as 4000 BC (US
Environmental Protection Agency 1999]. Yet it took until the 1800s before
scientists began to better understand bacteria and how water provided a
medium for bacteria transportation and potential disease transmission. John
Snow, now known as the father of epidemiology, conducted the first
epidemiological study in which he determined that Cholera was in fact a
waterborne disease and contaminated water was the source of a Cholera
outbreak (Frerichs 2009]. Although water treatment and research has an early
history, it was not until the twentieth century for the United States to create any
type of enforceable water treatment policy.
The first policies in the United States regarding drinking water occurred
in 1914. At this time, the US Public Health Service (USPHS) was the regulating
body, and passed a set of standards for the bacteriological quality of drinking
water. The regulations, however, were established only for water that would be
supplied to the public on interstate carriers, and coliform bacterium was the
only regulated contaminant. The bacterial standard established was 100
microorganisms per milliliter, and the organism adopted was Bacteria coli,

which is now better known as Escherichia coli (US Environmental Protection
Agency 1999). Now, total coliform is the bacteria measured, and the bacterial
standard is set at zero, meaning no microorganisms per milliliter is acceptable
(US Environmental Protection Agency 2010).
In 1925, the USPHS included additional physical and chemical
parameters such as copper, zinc, and dissolve solids, and also introduced the
first policy to contain the concept of relative risk, expounding the standard
again in 1942. The regulations were reevaluated and added increases in
standards during revisions in 1946 and 1962, with the 1962 standards being
the most comprehensive and stringent to date (Okun 2003).
Despite these revisions, over a decade passed before a "Safe Drinking
Water Act" was passed (in 1974)four years after the EPA opened its doors on
December 2,1970 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2009). Currently,
contaminants regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act are divided into
primary and secondary contaminants. Primary contaminants, those legally
enforceable, include compounds with the highest possibility of being present in
the water and known to cause adverse health effects. Secondary contaminants
refer to cosmetic or aesthetic contaminants, not enforceable by federal law, but
individual states can choose to enforce these standards. When the EPA

determines if a regulation should occur for a new contaminant, they use three
primary criteria (US Environmental Protection Agency 2010]:
The potential adverse effects on human health
The level and frequency of contamination in public drinking water
If regulation presents a meaningful opportunity for reducing public
health risk
These criteria have led to three major Act amendments in 1986,1992, and
1996. Some of these new requirements include wellhead protection, a right to
know clause for communities, more Filtration treatment, and the addition of
many more regulated contaminants, such as pesticides, inorganic chemicals,
and synthetic organic chemicals.
These amendments have shown an increased awareness of drinking
water issues, both from scientific and policy sides. The two biggest issues any
governing body faces when regulating drinking water are enforcement and
monetary restrictions. Enforcement is key for making a policy effective, and to
aid in regulation enforcement, the EPA created a new toolthe enforcement
targeting toolin order to help prioritize systems having repeat issues. This
new ETT is entirely formula-based in order to objectively prioritize water
systems in need of help (Pollins and Koslow 2009). To further exacerbate the
situation, policies cannot be successfully enforced if the noncompliant systems
cannot afford the system upgrades and repairs. With the 1996 amendments

that included providing money to communities in need of system improvement,
the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) was created. This fund, still
strong some 14 years later, allows States in need to improve water systems to
apply for grants from the EPA. The fund benefits many States and their water
systems, but there are still systems not meeting standards, and this program
only funds public water systems. If the EPA does not regulate it, it does not fund
it, so this excludes the entire private water system, including rural
As far as the effectiveness of regulation and enforcement on public water
systems, surveys between 1976 and 1995 showed the percentage of small and
medium water systems that treat their water had increased. In 1976, only 33
percent of water systems serving less than 100 people treated their water, and
that percentage increased to 69 percent by 1995 (US Environmental Protection
Agency 1999]. However, this does not include private water systems. Private
water systems include both private (domestic) wells and nonpublic sources,
and the Safe Drinking Water Act specifically states that it does not regulate any
of these private systems.
Over 43 million people in the United States use domestic wells (roughly
15 million wells), and over 500,000 people in Colorado drink from domestic
wells (DeSimone 2009). Since the Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate

their water, individuals hold the responsibility of ensuring safe drinking water
quality. There are a few associations around the country, such as the Water
Systems Council, American Ground Water Trust, and the National Drinking
Water Clearinghouse (US Environmental Protection Agency 2006), that help
advocate for these private water systems, provide quality assessments, and
provide educational resources. However, the outreach is minimal and monetary
assistance for testing is lacking. The EPA also has a webpage on private wells
with links to proper construction, publications, health issues, and other
partnered organizations, that provide further information and education to well
owners. However, none of these entities test the water or give advice on cost
efficient testing. Currently, the only option for well owners is to send a sample
of their water to a private lab for analysis, where the price ranges between $80
and $200, depending on the level of desired analysis. As will be discussed
further on, this is very expensive for many rural individuals.
Drinking water treatment is a matter of public health, which was the
entire premise of the creation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Despite the fact
that these individuals are a part of the public, generally speaking, their health
cannot be grouped together with the rest of the public when it comes to the
regulation of their drinking water quality. Logistically, it is just not feasible to
expect the EPA to regulate every individually-owned well across the United

Statesmore than 15 million water systems total. Therefore, this is when
informal policy would be beneficial, a topic that will be discussed further in the
review of literature.
2.2 Geology of Colorado
The geology across Colorado differs due to prehistoric events, such as the
formation of the Rocky Mountains and long-term erosion, resulting in a geologic
heterogeneity (Figure 2.1).

Figure 2.1 Colorado's Geology: Each color represents different underlying
strata. Samples were taken from locations with similar geologic structures.
United States Geologic Survey, n.d.
The Front Range is the area in Colorado just east of the Rocky Mountains, and
extends from north to south along the length of the state. The aquifer systems
that provide water for this region are the High Plains aquifer and the Denver
basin. The water from these aquifers is used in both urban and rural settings.
The High Plains aquifer (also known as the Ogallala aquifer, see Figure
2.2) extends for 174,000 miles and eight states, providing water for the largest

agricultural area in the United States. Colorados portion of the aquifer consists
mainly of gravel, sand, silt, and clay from the Quaternary period. Most of the
recharge in this part of the aquifer occurs from seepage, infiltration, and
overland flow that, due to widespread irrigation and increased population
growth in the area, results in an aquifer water deficit (Robson and Banta 2009).
Figure 1.2 High Plains Aquifer: Extent of High Plains aquifer,
supplying most of the Front Range groundwater. (Robson and Banta
In contrast, the Denver Basin consists of four aquifers that provide water
to the majority of the suburban and rural population in the surrounding Denver
area. It is not well connected to surrounding aquifers, such as the major aquifer
along the South Platte River Valley (Robson and Banta 2009). The four aquifers

that make up the Denver Basin include the Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer, Arapahoe
Aquifer, Denver Aquifer, and Dawson Aquifer (Figure 2.3].
Figure 2.2 Denver Basin Aquifer System.(Robson and Banta
The Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer formed on a low relief coastal plain as beach
deposits, and therefore consists mainly of sandstone and siltstone, with a
thickness of 200-330 feet. The Arapahoe Aquifer is in a fluvial depositional
formation, based on its distance from the foothills, and is 400-700 feet thick of
conglomerate rock, sandstone, and shale. The Denver Aquifer contains shale,
claystone, and sandstone, with a depth between 600 and 980 feet. Like the
Arapahoe Aquifer, the Dawson Aquifer consists of fluvial deposits of

conglomerate, sandstone, and shale, and is 200-900 feet thick (Woodard,
Sanford and Raynolds 2002).
Geologically, the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado can be divided
into four subsections: Alamosa Basin, Culebra reentrant, Costilla Plains, and
Taos Plateau, with the Alamosa Basin being one study area for this project.
Consisting of both igneous and sedimentary rocks, with quaternary deposits
mapped along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range as well as the valley floor,
the Alamosa Basin has alternating sands and silts of mixed fluvial, lacustrine,
and eolian origin (McCalpin 1996). Groundwater in the valley comes
predominately from the Rio Grande aquifer system, which contains both
confined and unconfmed aquifers. Because the confining layers are
discontinuous, differentiation between the two aquifers remains difficult
(Emery 1970).
Soil type can also be important in determining groundwater quality, with
different soil properties responsible for differing rates at which surface
contaminants infiltrate into the aquifers (Litke 2001). Natural purification can
occur as the water moves through different rock types, however, it must also be
remembered that unlike river water, groundwater has very long residence
times, resulting in a very lengthy natural removal process of contaminants and
a high cost and rigorous engineered cleanup activity (Satapathy, Salve and

Katpatal 2009). The rate at which contaminants are flushed from aquifers
depends on the characteristics of the aquifers and contaminants. The fluvial
deposits responsible for aquifer creation along the Front Range are considered
coarse grained, buried stream channel deposits mixed with the fine-grained silt
and clay. While the coarse-grained sediments can flush contaminants at a
relatively fast rate, the small silt and clay particles trap the contaminant,
resulting in a much slower wash out rate (Orient 2007). In short, understanding
basic geology and resultant soil composition then, can aid in my overall
research design.
A study conducted by Benes, et al. (1989) found distinct differences in
groundwater quality and soil type (clay vs. sandy), discovering that clay soils
had much lower nitrate concentrations than sandy soils. Coarse, sandy soils
allow for nitrates to easily permeate, so soil drainage, especially in agricultural
areas, should be taken into account when determining how easily nitrates can
seep into the ground water.
Ceplecha, et al. (2004) developed a map, based on the varying soil
compositions, displaying soil drainage for the state of Colorado. The result
shows poorly drained areas corresponding to more clay like soils, and
excessively drained soils corresponding to more coarse sandy soils. Many
factors in these studies resemble the Front Range, including soil type,

agricultural intensity, and aquifer placement. Ceplecha, et al.s (2004, pg. 307,
Figure 2) product shows that much of the Front Range is either moderately
drained or excessively drained. This is the same area where agriculture occurs,
consequently leading to more irrigation and fertilizer application. Furthermore,
after looking at various factors, Ceplecha et al. (2004, pg. 382, figure 5) created
an overall vulnerability map of Colorado, strengthening the observed
relationship. Further from Denver, the vulnerability increases, due mostly to the
increase in agriculture. These same areas of high and medium vulnerability are
the same rural areas that have household wells providing drinking water to an
individual householdwells the EPA does not regulate, increasing concern for
the health of individuals drinking from the wells.
As both Benes (1989) and Ceplecha et al. (2004) note, there is a strong
correlation between soil type and contaminant drainage. Considering the
aquifer and soil types found in Colorado, and more specifically rural areas along
and near the Front Range, the ability for nitrate to infiltrate the ground and end
up in aquifers is very high. Especially considering the extent of agricultural
areas associated with this region, making the probability of nitrate
contamination even higher.

2.3 Land Use
When determining the groundwater quality in a region, both natural
processes and anthropogenic activities are taken into account (De Andrade
2008). The USDA Census of Agriculture found that there were over 31 million
acres of farmland in Colorado, with 37% dedicated to cropland, and 56% to
pasture (NASS 2002). Of this cropland, the majority is irrigated, due to
Colorado's dry climate. Mining poses another problem in regards to land use
and water contamination, which will be examined later.
The amount of nitrogen put in fertilizer, along with the amount of
fertilizer applied to fields, has increased twenty-fold over the last fifty years
(Chesters and Schierow 1985). This, along with increased land used for
livestock, has increased the concentrations of pollutants in aquifers. As a result
of increasing population and ensuing groundwater mining, concentrations of
contaminants in the remaining groundwater amplify. Then, because the
concentrations of many contaminants can only be decreased due to dilution,
aquifer recharge and lowering water levels serve to increase these
concentrations (LeGrand 1972). And while most groundwater is safe to drink,
ground water contamination has been found in many Colorado locations, so it is
important that well owners take an active role in protecting their wells

(Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 2002). This can
especially be a problem with growing rural populations in these areas.
Over-irrigation coupled with excessive use of fertilizer represents a
disastrous combination for groundwater nitrate levels. Colorado State
University has been a leader in research on agricultural management,
developing multiple guidance documents on various agricultural facets,
including source, structural, managerial, and cultural controls, which are
important factors when striving to decrease the groundwater concentrations of
nitrate (Colorado State University 1994). One EPA study in 2010 researched
agricultural management in a farming area highly contaminated with nitrate.
After monitoring for three years, it was found that by applying little or no
fertilizer, the plants were able to uptake the nitrate in the groundwater,
remediating the high levels of nitrate (EPA 2010). This is a great example of the
benefits to responsible and attentive irrigation and nutrient management.
In 1985, it was reported that cropland, pasture, and rangeland in the US
contribute 7 million tons of nitrogen annually to surface water, with livestock
farming producing 2 billion tons of manure, which yields 7 million tons of
nitrogen (Chesters and Schierow 1985). This, coupled with the growing
amount of cropland in Colorado, only increases the amount of nitrate that
permeates the aquifers. The overlying issue is that more nitrogen is applied to

the fields than the crops actually utilize, so the excess nitrogen leads to
increased concentrations in soils and underlying aquifers. Data from a study in
Czechoslovakia found that only 40-60% of fertilizer applied was actually
absorbed by the plants, with 25-30% being lost in runoff [Benes, et al. 1989),
and similar results would be expected in agricultural Colorado. Soil
permeability and the presence of shallow aquifers only magnify this problem
(Litke 2001).
2.4 Parameters
2.4.1 Nitrate
Found in several different forms throughout the environment, nitrogen
represents the foundation of nitrate. While organic, elemental nitrogen (N2)
occurs naturally as part of the soil in organic matter, it can be converted to
other formslike ammonium (NH4+) by ammonificationand nitrate (NO3).
Nitrite (NO2) is the intermediate form between the mineralization of NH4+ to
NO3', but does not readily accumulate in soils because it either turns into NO3'
or is denitrified. Nitrate is a water-soluble anion, making it difficult to become
absorbed by soil, which leads to high mobility and leaching (Follett 1995).
Nitrates, therefore, represent a major contaminant resulting from
agriculture, which ends up in private well water and causes adverse health

effects. Excess nitrate also poses a large risk for ecosystems, especially streams
and lakes, but that is beyond the scope of this project. Yet studying nitrate
deposition and its effects on groundwater has far-reaching effects. For example,
excessive amounts of nitrates can cause a health risk to infants, called the "blue
baby syndrome, where oxygen flow in blood is disrupted (Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment n.d.). This occurs by the nitrate
being reduced to nitrite in the digestive system, then entering the blood stream,
combining with the red blood cells. The nitrite oxidizes hemoglobin into
methemoglobin, and methemoglobin is unable to transport oxygen (Knobeloch
2000), causing the blood to change colors, and ultimately the skin, lending to
the name, 'blue baby syndrome (Ehlers and Steel 1950). Most adults are not
affected by nitrate, but studies have shown that there is an increased risk for
birth defects and miscarriages for women that are consuming water with high
concentrations of nitrate (Colorado Department of Public Health and
Environment n.d.).
Further, more studies are discovering health risks for adults that ingest
large concentrations of nitrate, linking high nitrate ingestion to gastric cancer,
diabetes, and thyroid disease (Knobeloch 2000). These rising health concerns
linked with nitrates only strengthen the need for more research and
monitoring, especially because nitrate removal in water is a very expensive

process for water treatment plants, with ground water remediation cost even
higher. Understanding nitrate transport coupled with monitoring fertilizer
applications and water quality will greatly reduce health concerns for all that
rely on rural wells.
2.4.2 Coliform
While coliform are usually not disease-causing organisms, they can be
used as an excellent indicator of other, more harmful present bacteria (Francy,
et al. 2004). An American Water Works Association Research Foundation
(AWWARF) study in 1999 found a statistically significant correlation between
total coliform and infectious viruses, with total coliform showing the lowest
false negative rate among other indicator bacteria tested (Francy, et al. 2004).
Furthermore, it represents an effective method of testing for the presence of
other bacteria because it would be too costly and impractical to test for
individual pathogens (Cude 2001).
Coliform can enter water systems from a variety of sources: leaking
septic systems, sewerline breaks, overland flows, and animal waste runoff are
all possible sources of contamination. Septic systems are the most prominent
contamination source for rural wells if not properly constructed and/or
maintained (Plateau Environmental Services; CDS Environmental Services

2001). Additionally, wellhead protection and intact well casings are important
in maintaining sanitary water conditions. Well depth is also an important
consideration, with wells less than 200 feet deep more susceptible to
contamination (Gonzales 2008).
The USGS performed a study on domestic well water quality, finding that
33.5 percent of all tested wells had detectable amounts of total coliform, and 7.9
percent E. coli bacteria. These wells with detectable bacteria tended to be older
and had more surrounding agricultural land (DeSimone 2009). Remediation of
coliform bacteria in wells can also become expensive, depending on the
underlying source of contamination. Since this particular study focuses on
private household wells, this remediation can be costly for homeowners. If it is
a one-time contamination, a simple 'chlorine shock'where a high dose of
chlorine is added to the water to kill all bacteriausually solves the issue.
However, if the issue is a result of a more serious problem such as a cracked
well casing, well replacement or abandonment are the only viable options (US
EPA 2008).
2.4.3 Other Parameters
Conductivity is a measurement of waters ability of to conduct electricity.
It reflects the amount of inorganic pollution in the water, and is an indirect

measurement of the amount of dissolved solids and ionized species in the water
(Jonnalagadda and Mhere 2000). Therefore, conductivity should be correlated
to total dissolved solids, which represent another indicator of a water sources
overall pollution burden. TDS can be measured in drinking water or any aquatic
system, and the higher the level of dissolved solids, the higher the biological and
chemical oxygen demand, which then depletes the dissolved oxygen
concentration, leading to hypoxia and ecosystem decline (Jonnalagadda and
Mhere 2000).
Arsenic can be present in groundwater due to natural causes, such as
rock geochemistry, as well as anthropogenic causes. However, in areas like the
Front Range, natural arsenic is not as much of an issue (Welch, et al. 2000), but
anthropogenically introduced groundwater arsenic is more likely to be found,
due to Colorado's high mineral exploration and exploitation, specifically in the
coal and uranium mining industries (Satapathy, Salve and Katpatal 2009).
Besides dewatering facilities present that pump out contaminated water,
mining sites tend to develop open pits, ore piles, mine tailings, and spoil heaps,
all which increase the likelihood that they will release high concentrations of
chemicals into the natural environment (Satapathy, Salve and Katpatal 2009).
Mining has a long history in Colorado, with both abandoned and active
coalmines in the mountains of Colorado that have been around since the mid

1800s. One example is the mining district of California Gulch, near Leadville.
With about more than 2,000 waste piles around the site, surface and
groundwater contamination occurs due to acid rock drainage, along with high
metal concentrations (Velleux 2006). This contamination can affect the local
groundwater and wells that tap into those aquifers, as well as streams and
other surface water. One study found arsenic in water near a mining site at
concentrations of 1200 pg/L in surface water and 2900 pg/L in groundwater,
well above the drinking water limit of 10 pg/L (Routh 2007). Along the Front
Range, the affected surface water has the potential to travel down the
mountains where it will then recharge the Denver Basin and High Plains
Aquifer, potentially contaminating wells that tap into these aquifers with high
heavy metal concentrations.
2.5 The Issue of Rural Policy
There is no easy solution to the development of any type of rural policy,
whether formal or informal, and the policies relating to drinking water are no
exception. But potential resolution can begin by examining the rural culture and
historical trends of the people that live in these rural communities. Elected
officials and other public decision-makers often assume that the same policy
framework used in urban settings can be transposed to rural settings. However,

this is ineffective because that framework does not address the cultural issues
of remoteness and lifestyle of rural communities. Certain informal policies and
organizations are found in certain rural areas, but even these must tackle the
issue of remoteness, both geographically and socially. Policymakers and
political scientists have been researching the issue of rural development policy
for decades. To address some of the difficulty in creating rural policy, the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) even has a department dedicated to
rural development that seeks to improve the economy and quality of life in
rural America through various programs (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010).
Examining these issues related to rural-dwelling people will allow for better
understanding of how to implement a program that will make drinking water
quality monitoring a higher priority, ensuring rural citizens have safe drinking
2.5.1 Historical Trends and Values of Rural Citizens
Historically, rural populations enjoy the remoteness and nonintrusive
nature of government within the locale. Symbols of rural life often include clean
air, open space, peace, and knowing everyone (Thurston and Meadows 2003).
People are often drawn to rural communities to escape the seemingly stressful,
frantic urban lifestyle. Yet for about one-third of Americans, rural living is all

they know, with generations of families continuing the farming or other type of
rural business (Thurston and Meadows 2003).
For this study, Rio Grande County and Otero County, Colorado, represent
the main data collection regions, and they display comparative trends with
other rural communities along the Front Range (and many others across the
In the past three presidential elections, both counties have voted
republican (Leip 2010), with those voting a republican ticket tend to
have conservative ideologies on the role of government.
They are predominately white counties and roughly a third claiming
Hispanic origin (U.S. Census Bureau 2009).
They favor a laissez-faire approach to business and government
regulation, which aligns well with their rural lifestyle.
They likely would not favor any government attempt to implement
formal policy that would affect their way of life.
Furthermore, Rio Grande County and Otero County have lower per
capita incomes ($15,650 and $15,113, respectively) and educational levels
(18.8% and 15.4%, respectively with a Bachelors degree) when compared to
both the state and national average (U.S. Census Bureau 2009). Education
remains a prime issue to tackle when working with policies and programs in
rural communities. Not only do many of the citizens have limited formal
education, but they also do not have a firm education on the issues that affect
their everyday life, such as health issues associated with living in the country
(Stauber 2001, Thurston and Meadows 2003). Further, this lower income

hinders the capacity and credibility of the community to impact and manage
policy changes (Bradshaw 2003, Mullen and Allison 1999].
2.5.2 History of Rural Policy Issues
Not only do rural areas have a lower income than urban areas, but there
is also a higher incidence of chronic illnesses and a higher frequency of
unemployment (Dinse 1982). Many attribute the lack of improvements in these
areas to structural deficiencies in the politics involved to create these rural
programs. With agriculture the focus for most rural communities, it leads to an
inability to focus attention on other important rural issues because they are
putting all their energy and focus towards agricultural issues. Furthermore, the
United States historically has a tendency to create programs for urban areas
and assume they work for the rural areas, though the needs of the two types of
communities and economies are very different.
It is impossible to transpose urban policies into the rural setting and
expect the same results. The lifestyle, intrinsic values, and ideologies of the
people are different, with geographical sprawl alone acting as a physical barrier
to this transposition of urban policy. Excluding private water systems in the
Safe Drinking Water Act is a prime example of the understanding that urban
policy cannot exist in a rural setting, for it is physically impossible to monitor

and regulate this multitude of geographically scattered individual water
systems. Studying the history of the urban-rural policy issues, usually a "one
size fits all approach does not work (Stauber 2001), and a different approach
to rural policy should be addressed. However, that is not to say that rural and
urban communities cannot work together.
When the Industrial Revolution began in the 1890s, a social contract
emerged where urban areas relied on rural communities to provide food, raw
materials, and cheap labor to Urban America. The urban areas benefited by
receiving these inexpensive goods, and the rural areas benefited from various
public investments such as improved electric and telephone systems, subsidies
to water and rail transportation, and endorsements of public research and
extension programs to benefit farmers and ranchers (Dinse 1982). However,
beginning in the Carter Administration and continuing into the Reagan
Administration, deregulation began to promote lowest-cost services to the
urban majority. This, along with the rise in globalization, left Rural America
barren, with a decrease in public investments and increased disconnection to
Urban America. The 2000 Census stated that the United States is now
considered a suburban nation because many Americans live in the suburbs and
that is also where the majority of the political power lies (Stauber 2001).

Therefore, the rural minority is in danger of having less voice and less federal
involvement with improving policies and programs.
With the ever-increasing gap between the urban majority and rural
minority, rural poverty is becoming more of an issue. According to Parnwell
(1988), rural poverty is structurally induced, and can be attributed to a number
of historical, economic, demographic, and socio-cultural factors. Also hindering
rural development is the increased migration from rural to urban (or suburban)
areas, which creates a cycle of impoverishment and marginalization.
There are many methods of raising rural communities out of poverty.
The World Bank released a report in 2008 that discussed three pathways out of
poverty: 1) continuation and improvement of agriculture, 2) rural
nonagricultural activities, and 3) out-migration (Kay 2009). Kay (2009) further
suggests that the key is for agriculture to be treated and developed as a
dynamic entity that can change according to development and the global
market, and recommends that a better synergy be created between agriculture
and industry.
Economics are a huge hurdle for rural development and program
implementation. Without public investments from outside urban sources, many
rural communities do not have the funds to combat a particular public issue,
and creating and maintaining a program is infeasible (Stauber 2001). In the

past, scientists conducted their research, published it, and then left it to
policymakers to determine what policy, if any, should come of it (Rosenbaum
2008]. Yet scientists often understand the subject the best. There is a need for
the dissemination of information by individual researchers, with the potential
to provide more successful programs and informal policies. Lubchenco (1998)
suggests a social contract for scientists to not just focus on performing the
research, but also to research ways for it to better reach the public in an
effective manner. This would play a critical role in the social improvement and
well being of the rural minority. The Rural Policy Research Institute is one
organization that provides unbiased analysis of the current challenges and
needs of rural areas and helps policymakers understand the impacts of rural
programs and policies (RUPRI 2009). Getting the scientists involved in this
process could prove very beneficial for future policies and programs.
2.5.3 Philosophies of Rural Policy
Brian Barry, a political philosopher, proposed the idea of "public
interest and suggested deriving rural policy proposals from this public
interest. He defined public interest as being common interests that people share
with other members of the public (Dinse 1982), and with respect to public
interest, the needs of the community as a whole must be addressed. In dealing

with anti-poverty rural development, the development process must include
public participation to ensure that the local, public needs are met and their
interests are served as a whole (Muyeed 1982). Many rural communities are
taking a community-based approach, especially in regards to resource
This type of framework emphasizes local, informal systems, less of an
attachment to market forces, and a larger role for communities to be stewards
of their resource. The thought is that if the community is responsible for
managing a certain resource, it will be a more flexible regulation, sustainable
management, and responsive to local circumstances (Bocking 2004). There is a
possibility that this framework could be transferred to involve other policies
not related to resource management, such as drinking water quality. However,
when dealing with a topic that is not in the forefront of the mind every day, the
risk is that the community will have no interest in managing it because they see
no need. Perhaps the key to this management rests in better rural education,
something that could be incorporated with the implementation of the field test
kit and index.
Moreover, there are some criticisms within the framework of
community-based resource management. Research such as Bradshaw (2003)
question the credibility and capacity of community-based resource

management and the communities involved. Credibility, as described by
Bradshaw (2003), is a communitys commitment to reputably use their local
resources. Though hopeful to assume a community has the credibility to
manage their own local resources, many argue that it is unrealistic (Bradshaw
2003). There are usually a small group of concerned, involved citizens that
decide to volunteer and lead in the efforts of community-based management,
but the policy and management issues at hand must be a priority for the entire
community in order for the management to be maintained and sustained
(Bradshaw 2003).
Capability can be defined as a communitys ability to determine their
objectives (Bradshaw 2003), which can be especially difficult to accomplish in
poorer communities. When poverty is an issue, it is nearly impossible to
prioritize or have the capabilities to address and manage environmental issues,
especially when compared to economic strains of a community. In many cases
government aid will help monetarily supplement a community, and to ignore
the possibility of state involvement is a mistake. Many communities must
recognize their variable capacity and seek help in order for community-based
management to be successful (Bradshaw 2003). With both a high credibility
and high capacity, it is possible to empower a community to develop their own

strategies for managing their community. If this is possible, it comes with the
possibility of achieving economic stability.
2.6 Indices
Scientific indices are useful tools for quickly assessing any number of
environmental parameters [Harden 1982, Dorn et al. 2008). Another benefit is
the ability to modify the index for future study sites. In reviewing literature on
water quality indices, there are a variety of different studies available, with
most water quality indices following two steps: 1) the analytical results of
selected parameters are compiled and weighted into sub-index values, and 2)
these values are then aggregated in a particular fashion to create an overall
index value (Ramesh, et al. 2010).
The first water quality indices appear in the literature as early as
1965(Cude 2001), but the first index to be used as the basis for future indices
was the National Sanitation Foundation's Water Quality index (NSF WQI). It was
developed using the Delphi Method which uses experts' opinions to generate
results [Cude 2001). Nine parameters are used in this particular index, which
was created in order to be a standardized method to compare the relative
quality of various bodies of water (Said, Stevens and Sehlke 2004).

Over the last 10 years, more entities have developed drinking water
quality indices (DWQIs), but each works on different levels and at different
scales. For example, the United Nations Environment Program devised the
Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS)/Water Program, based on a
DWQI. Their main document provides a table with previous indices that have
been created in regards to water quality at either a national or international
scalesbut not at the regional scale. The GEMS/Water, using water quality data
from GEMStat, developed and tested a global drinking water quality index. They
do conclude, however, that data used to create the index was a compilation
from rivers, lakes, and groundwater, and future research should look to
separate these sources of drinking water (United Nations Environment
Programme 2007). The purpose of this index is to be a measurement of an
entire nations drinking water quality, disregarding the individual-scale of
drinking water quality. Because this DWQIs scope is global, the sensitivity of
using it on a regional scale has not been tested. Due to the global scale of the
data and the nature of this index, it is not surprising that spatial analyses were
not conductedsomething that would need to be tested on a regional scale. It is
also important to note that most of the indices listed by GEMS/Water were
developed with regards to water quality in lakes or rivers (United Nations
Environment Programme 2007).

At a regional scale, Resource Development International (RDI) created a
DWQI and used spatial analysis to determine the water quality of tube wells in
Cambodia. This study focused on a much smaller area than the GEMS/Water
index, and included a solid set of tested parameters. However, RDI notes that
this index is only applicable to tube wells, a type of well only commonly used in
Asia (Resource Development International Cambodia 2008). While RDI's study,
like GEMS/Water, represents a beneficial study for assessing drinking water
quality, only drinking water quality parameters used in creation of the DWQI
remain relevant to my research.
In the 1970s the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
developed the Oregon Water Quality Index and regularly updates the index
(Cude 2001). The original index was based off of the NSF WQI and is cited in the
development of other indices. Again, this index was developed to monitor the
quality of Oregon streams, so it would not be an adequate method for
determining drinking water quality.
A study conducted in India developed a drinking water quality index
based on a different approach and developed the index specifically for a certain
region in Southern India (Ramesh, et al. 2010). They used an ANOVA test to
compare the results of their index to other water quality indices, including the
Oregon WQI. What differentiated their index from other drinking water indices

is their increase weight of parameters that are directly related to health. This
index, like my proposed index, increases the weight of health related
parameters, but still uses the typical method of developing a drinking water
quality index: developing a sub-index for the parameters before combining the
weighted parameters.
All of these studies and reviews were taken into consideration
throughout my entire index creation processincluding the fieldwork, index
development itself, and analysisin terms of what will be effective both
scientifically and socially when working in a rural setting. My Rural Drinking
Water Quality Index (RDWQI)outlined in this thesisdoes not follow the
standard two-step formula noted by Ramesh et al. (2010), but rather, takes the
form of a checklist. This allows for a rapid, cost-effective, and user-friendly
assessment of basic water quality any rural household can conduct. In most
cases, my index serves as a triage for rural households, allowing them to
determine their drinking water quality efficiently and decide for themselves,
based on specific, scientific parameters, whether they want (or need) to spend
more money for further testing and/or possible mitigation.

3. Introduction to Methods
The point of this section rests in outlining the methods used to develop
this user-friendly rural drinking water quality index. This includes describing
steps taken in regards to site selection, safety protocols, and field data
collection, while also serving as an overview of the how and why testing
parameters were selected, and what analyses were performed and why. Private
wells, such as those found in rural areas, remain exempt from the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act, which often results in little-to-no monitoring of potable
waterespecially in rural districts. As these obligations are left in the hands of
the individual land owner, and because sending water samples to a lab or
having an independent company test water quality can be expensive, many
rural households go without testing until someone gets ill. It is hoped that with
this index and an easy-to-use, inexpensive field test kit, more private well
owners and communities will be able to conduct routine water quality
monitoring and analysis without expensive charges. Further, one of my index's
strong points rests in its adaptability: should a household want to add any other
parameters, they can adjust/add-in the component later.

All methods used for this thesis were approved by the University of
Colorados COMIRB (Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board), protocol
3.1 Site Selection
I selected potential test wells from the Colorado Division of Water
Resources Well Permits Database, for all private wells must have a permit
registered in this system. Knowing the testing areas of interest, I selected
domestic or household use wells that fell within 10 miles of a rural highway,
Hwy 15, that runs north to south along the Front Range.

Extent of Wtell Study Sites in Southern Colorado
Figure 3.1 Extent of Study Sites
Within this coordinate set, I initially mailed postcards to 500
households that use private wells, asking for permission to test their drinking
water. After receiving a very small response (<3%) from these post cards, I
redesigned my site selection protocols. Utilizing the public Water Resources
Database again, I collated individual household names with corresponding
phone numbers from a local phone book, and called each household personally.

I also contacted different rural organizations, such as the Crowley County Water
Association, Trinity Lutheran Church in Fowler, and United Methodist Church of
Ordway to aid in selecting households using private wells. These protocols
resulted in selection and subsequent testing of 22 wells and two rivers, each
selected based on postcard response, accessibility, household desire, and also
basic location and similar geology.
3.2 Safety Protocols
After ample flushing of the tap (3-5 minutes), I collected water samples
in 500 mL sterilized glass jars. This is standard procedure for grab samples, as
noted by other studies (Close 1993, Carter, et al. 2000). I immediately
performed the coliform test to reduce the risk of contamination, and when
possible, took the sample directly from an interior tap (Colorado Department of
Public Health and Environment 2004).
The EZ Arsenic Test Kit produces hazardous waste, so I contacted the
hazardous materials specialist for the University of Colorado Denver and
received proper training and a disposal container.
To blind test my data collection, one random well water sample was sent
to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environments water
quality lab where my selected parameters were assessed by independent

researchers for validity and veracity. Their results coincided with my in-the-
field tests. Such blind testing remains an important tool in fieldwork, especially
in a research program that is purely and necessarily field-based. While blind
testing several samples would have been preferred, logistics and cost prevented
such an act. Nevertheless, lab results for this particular wellaccompanied by
my own field-based resultscan be found in the appendix.
3.3 Field Data Collection
1 collected field data from August through November 2010, including pH,
alkalinity, hardness, arsenic, total dissolved solids, conductivity, salinity, total
coliform, nitrate, and nitrite. To determine these values, I used a variety of
affordable, functional, and easy-to-use test kits and apparatus, including:
Hach EZ Arsenic Test Kit
Hach 5-in-l Water Quality Test Strips
Hach Nitrate and Nitrite Test Strips
Eutech Instruments Multi-Parameter PCSTestr 35
Waterworks EZ Coliform Test Kit.
I also recorded coordinates (NAD 1983] at each well site using a Trimble Juno
SB handheld GPS unit.

3.3.1 Criteria for Parameters Chosen
While testing for multiple water quality indicators, three criteria were
always taken into account, and became integral in selecting chief parameters to
include in my final index. Namely: what common parameters are good
indicators of drinking water quality; what parameters are unique to the study
area; what parameters can be measured with an easy-to-use, cost efficient, field
test. Coliform
By itself, coliform is not necessarily harmful, but as previously noted in
the review of literature (Francy, et al. 2004), it can be an excellent indicator for
harmful bacteria. While advanced coliform tests that culture bacteria and allow
a count of present bacteria are easy to use, they are also fairly expensive.
However, tests that merely note a positive or negative coliform presence are
reasonably priced (roughly five dollars for one test), and they do not require a
lot of expertise and skill. Owing to its importance in assessing harmful bacteria
then, I used the Waterworks EZ Coliform Test Kitsimilar to what an
individual household would usefor coliform testing. Nitrate
Within this study area, agriculture represents a large portion of the land
use and economy. As agriculture is often linked with high nitrate levels in water

(Chesters and Schierow 1985), testing for nitrate was deemed an important
parameter to be included in the testing and development of the index. Many
different field tests were researched, but the one chosen for use in development
of my index, owing to its accuracy, affordability, and ease of use, was the Hach
Nitrate and Nitrite Test Strips. Conductivity
Measuring the ability of water to conduct electricity, conductivity is an
indicator of the amount of inorganic pollution and ionsthe lower the
conductivity, the cleaner the water. However, hardness can also contribute to
conductivity, so there is some leniency in conductivity measurements when
factoring in the presence of natural minerals. Conductivity, however, is also
related to total dissolved solids, which is a contributor to the increased
conductance. While it is expected that every ground water sample contains
dissolved solids, the EPA considers TDS a secondary standard, setting the
guideline concentration at no more than 500 ppm (EPA 2010). pH
While pH is considered by EPA to be a secondary drinking water
standard (EPA 2010), it was included in the index because of its ease of testing
and ability to reveal potential contaminants. For example, if water is shown to
be very acidic (or very alkaline), as determined by pH value, it could be an

indication that there are other potentially harmful contaminants present,
altering the pH (Jonnalagadda and Mhere 2000). Arsenic
While found both naturally and as a pollutant in groundwater, chronic
exposure to arsenic can lead to keratosis and possible vascular complications
(US EPA 1998). While arsenic is not naturally present in my study area (Welch,
et al. 2000), mining activitysomething Colorado is known foroften includes
arsenic-related methods (Satapathy, Salve, and Katpatal 2009) and thus
presents a potential risk to groundwater contamination. Other Parameters
1 also tested each samples salinity, temperature, nitrite, hardness,
alkalinity, and total and free chlorine, but these were not directly included in
the developed index for a number of reasons. First, while salinity is an
important measurement of present ions, it is sufficient for this area of study to
only include conductivity and total dissolved solids as a measurement of free
ions in the water. Study areas that focus on salt-water intrusion will include
salinity and Cf concentrations in their analysis (Latinopoulos 2001), but for this
study, conductivity usurps the need to include salinity in the overall index
score. Second, to generate an accurate temperature reading for water, several
measurements must be taken over a given time period and spatial area, and

since good water quality potentially exists at any temperature, this parameter
was not included in the final index parameters. Third, nitrite is rarely found in
groundwater at high levels, for as previously mentioned, it either converts to
nitrate or is denitrified (Follett 1995). Fourth, hardness and alkalinity
represent only aesthetic parameters for water quality (which is why many
people using well water install water softeners). Lastly, total and free chlorine
were not included because many people on private wells tend to not chlorinate
their water, and it is possible to have safe drinking water without the presence
of chlorine, especially considering that over-chlorinated water may result in
carcinogenic byproducts (EPA 2009). Weighting Parameters
Each parameter included in the index should carry a different weight on
the overall index score depending on the individual health impacts of that
parameter. With this checklist type of index, a number of additional questions
exist for each parameter, which corresponds to the additional influences of that
parameter on human health. This type of weighting also helps account for the
varying degrees of contamination for the secondary standards.

3.4 Analyses Techniques
Once the pertinent index parameters were selected, I performed a
statistical analysis in order to determine the validity and precision of the index.
The hope is that each parameter contributes differently to the overall index
score, so a Pearsons test helps determine these individual weights. As with
other water quality indices (United Nations Environment Programme 2007,
Ramesh, et al. 2010), total coliform has an extreme weight on the overall score,
and hence, was not included in the index score, but rather, as a separate yes/no
indicating the presence.
To further explore my field techniques, analyses occurred via spatial
assessment of maps. 1 created an interpolation map for both conductivity and
total dissolved solids and found an overlapping pattern (see Figure 4.1) that
confirms the field methods used to measure these parameters is accurate, due
to the correlation in concentrations. This map was coupled with a linear
regression of conductivity and total dissolved solids, which resulted in a strong
correlation. Making sure to keep in line with previous findings (see Review of
Literature) I also spatially analyzed nitrate and agriculture intensification,
which resulted in a strong correlation (see figure 4.3). This map was coupled
with a t-test to confirm there was a significant difference in nitrate
concentrations between the intensity of agriculture.

4. Results and Analysis
Not only can G1S mapping be useful in exploring spatial relationships,
but is also a good technique in bringing other patterns to light. I used ArcMap to
create an interpolation map of conductivity values and total dissolved solid
values for a portion of my study site. TDS and conductivity are closely related as
the two measures were highly correlated. Figure 4.1 shows the spatial patterns
for TDS and total conductivity. Conductivity increases as the concentration of
total dissolved solids increases.
m i i mn
0 185 370 740 Me lets
Figure 4.1 Interpolation Map: Conductivity QiS) and TDS (ppm), indicating
accurate field instrumentation.

Using the line of best fit, the r2 for conductivity vs. total dissolved solids
is 0.99997, indicating a very strong correlation between conductivity and total
dissolved solids.
Figure 4.2 Best Fit Line: Graphical representation of conductivity vs. total
dissolved solids, with an r2 value of 0.99997.
As discussed in the review of literature, correlations between
agricultural intensification and groundwater nitrate concentrations are often
observed. To test this in the present study, I produced a map depicting
agricultural intensification and nitrate concentrations of the well samples.
Agricultural intensification is a measurement of the annual amount of
expenditures per farm (excluding farming machinery) and is normalized for the
acreage per farm. Higher expenditures per acre (which included pesticides and

fertilizers) provide an estimate of the intensity of agricultural practices. As
shown in figure 4.3, the higher nitrate concentrations are in the areas of higher
agricultural intensification.
Agriculture Intensification and Nitrate Concentration
Figure 4.3 Agriculture Intensification and Nitrate: Agriculture as it relates to
groundwater nitrate concentrations. Agriculture data received from 2009
Agriculture Census.
In order to quantify this observation, 1 performed a t-test to test
differences in the nitrate concentrations of areas with low-intensity agriculture
and those in high-intensity agriculture areas. Low-intensity agriculture areas
were characterized as those in the bottom have of the range for agricultural

intensification (see Figure 4.3), and high-intensity agriculture areas were those
in the top half of the range for agricultural intensification. This yielded a p-
value of 0.023, which indicates a significant difference in the two data sets.
Pearson's correlation coefficient is a good statistical tool for determining
the weight and significance of the individual index components. In this case,
Pearsons shows how well two different parameters are linearly related to one
another. All parameters included in the index were analyzed with Pearson's,
excluding arsenic (all samples returned a 0 ppm concentration for arsenic), and
are shown in Table 4.1.
Table 4.1 Pearsons correlation for inc ex parameters.
Nitrate pH TDS Conductivity
Nitrate 1.000 -0.214 0.515 0.518
pH X 1.000 -0.383 -0.383
TDS X X 1.000 1.000
Conductivity X X X 1.000
Table 4.1 Pearson's correlation for inc represent correlation between individ ex parameters: Values Lial parameters.
There are low correlations between pH and nitrate, TDS, and
conductivity. Nitrate has a medium correlation with both TDS and conductivity.
Conductivity and TDS have a correlation of 1.000. This is a good indication,
along with the graph in figure 4.2, that conductivity and TDS give the same
results. Therefore, 1 could explore the possibility of removing one of these
parameters from the index something that could be done in future research.

In order to get an indication of the overall quality of the wells sampled, I
created a map showing the index scores of the individual sampled wells.
Figure 4.4 Index Scores of Study Sites
Because this is a drinking water quality index as opposed to a surface
water quality index, as well a new method for index creation (checklist versus
sub-index creation), this hinders the ability to run an analysis of variance

(ANOVA) test in conjunction with other indices. Therefore, the statistical
analysis of this index is limited at this time.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations
Based on the review of literature, the methods used for creating, testing,
and refining the field-based Rural Drinking Water Quality Index (RDWQI), and
an in-depth assessment of the index and its parameters, I put forward
conclusions and recommendations for both this research endeavor and
associated (possible) future work. This section begins with a discussion of the
analyses as an indication of the overall data, followed by an exploration of
societal applications, including recommendations for rural implementation of
the index. The section ends with an overview of the perceived shortcomings,
along with future work and potential implications.
5.1 Discussion of Analyses
As previously discussed (see Chapter 4), the field techniques and
equipment implemented provided accurate results, especially in the case of
measuring conductivity and total dissolved solids. The comparison of
laboratory results to field results (see Appendix G) also indicates accuracy in
selected equipment. With regards to the linear relationships between the
individual index parameters, conductivity and total dissolved solids were highly

correlated, indicating future work to remove one of these parameters. While
more test sites would provide a stronger indication of the parametric influence,
achieving this was beyond the scope of this research endeavor.
GIS mapping, coupled with a t-test, allowed for the comparison of
agricultural intensification and nitrate concentration, which corresponded
especially well with the literature. The map of index scores represents the
spatial trends of the overall water quality of the test sites, with higher index
scores indicating poorer water quality in the eastern well sites (Figure 4.4).
This correlation represents an interesting future facet that could be undertaken
at a later date or by another researcher.
5.2 Societal Applications
Often times, policy changes can result in unpredictable outcomes,
especially in rural areas, where outsiders are often seen as dubious characters
with underlying agendas and special interests. Bringing policy change to rural
areas then, presents a special challenge. 1 draw from my own experiences in
this project to illustrate these difficulties. While conducting my sampling in the
San Luis Valley (Colorado), one rural housewife saw my interest in rural policy
issues and engaged me in conversation. The lady spoke about an organization
the SLV Ecosystem Councilthat was in her area offering residents nitrate

testing. There were reportedly high nitrate levels in the area due to agriculture,
and she boldly pointed towards her neighbors, acknowledging that they did not
want their water tested because they knew their nitrate levels were already
high, which would require them to mitigate the problem.
"They have illegal potato dumping going on over there. They have a
farmer dump his old potatoes in their sheep pen for the sheep to eat. But
the sheep dont eat that many potatoes, so they rot and seep nitrates into
the soil and eventually, the water table. It's illegal for them to be
drinking that water because its so bad, and really, they should get in
trouble for polluting the aquifer" (Anonymous 2010).
Considering this housewifes husband is a water and wastewater tester, the
commentary struck me as rather interesting, especially since the Safe Drinking
Water Act does not regulate rural drinking water. Individual well water can be
consumed by anyone, and there is rarely any way to know whether or not it is
harmful to an individual's health. In terms of the aquifer contamination, there
are preventative programs and policies, however, as the housewifes statements
exemplify, not knowing the possible options when it comes to the policies
available can lead to environmental neglect. From our discussion, 1 gathered she
was unaware of policies, or even who to inform about possible aquifer
contamination. She seemed content to complain about the situation. This
anecdote demonstrates the potential for policy creation and management
through education in rural areas that may actually help the rural citizenry.

Current programs addressing such issues as radon exposure
(Duckworth, et al. 2002) and breast cancer screening (Lantz, et al. 2003), along
with previous research reveal the difficulty in creation and effective
implementation of rural policy, whether formal or informal. Yet, by utilizing the
positives and negatives of past programs, a framework can begin to develop by
which private water systems could be more precisely monitored. To achieve
this integral framework, a few key items must be included. First, mobility is of
supreme importance, such as having a low-cost, portable field test kit and an
easy to use index. The test kit and index would allow for an individual
household to determine their water quality within 24-48 hours of testing.
Second, a concerned and proactive group of supporters, with perhaps a small
volunteer staff, would enhance the overall framework. Many rural communities
already have an established rural water board that manages the small public
water system. If those involved in the public water system would be willing to
take on the management of the private well monitoring program, this would
increase the likelihood of a sustainable project. On the downsideand
especially if the community is struggling economicallythis could prove
difficult, as finding a supportive group of people needed to maintain and
manage the project might be difficult.

While it may not be feasible to pass a law funding private well
monitoring, if any type of funding could be received and managed by an outside
party, this would improve the chances of the programs success. Gaining enough
citizen interest to prioritize water testing without having to worry about
convincing them to pay for it will be difficult at best, even though the initial
investment would be small (e.g., the field test kit costs approximately $500 and
contains enough equipment to perform approximately 100 tests). Rural
community groups like the rural county water board could approach the
USDA's Rural Development Department or NGOs, such as Protect our Wells and
the Water Systems Council, that work with rural community water systems. If
entities like these can be convinced to fund simple test kits for rural
communities, it would take a lot of the weight off of the community to find the
A third key to successfully implementing this framework rests in
education. The ability to educate citizenry about the health risks associated
with unclean water and the easy steps they can take to monitor their water
would prove beneficial in making private well monitoring a priority in rural

5.3 Future Work and Shortcomings
Due to time and financial limitations, there are many aspects of this
project that can be further explored in future research. One important step
involves testing the index itself in the field. Having individual homeowners
follow the field kit instructions (Appendix H) and determine their index score
would prove beneficial in the overall implementation and community support
of the field kit and index concept outlined in this thesis.
Another topic that may be explored is the seasonal influences of well
water quality. Samples for this study were taken in late summer and early fall,
so they do not account for seasonal variations. Considering nitrate alone,
studies have shown that precipitation patterns and seasonal changes alter the
groundwater concentrations of nitrate (Alberts and Spomer 1985). Therefore,
including seasonal variability would be an important aspect not only for the
effects on the index, but also for overall water quality and health.
In terms of my overall investigation, a couple of factors were discovered
that may have hindered the extent of analysis I was able to perform. One
prominent shortcoming was the small number of testing sites. If possible, I
would like to have tested perhaps double my current n in order to increase my
data and ability to scrutinize the general analysis. This would have also
strengthened the statistical analysis by providing better correlation values and

charts (i.e., higher n leads to stronger statistical validity). Along with this, I
would have preferred having a more spatially extensive data set. While spatial
variation does not necessarily affect the individual index scores, it would
enhance the correlative capability of my GIS to have a more diverse set of sites,
especially in terms of analyzing agriculture influence on nitrate contamination.
Overall, however, a great benefit to the format of my index rests in its
ability to add various parameters in the future. For example, if a certain region
has salt-water intrusion issues, the concentration of Cl ions may be added to
the index parameters. Of course, the range of results would need to be adjusted,
but this adjustment would be minor. And further, because of this flexibility, my
index has the power to be used internationally when working with well water
quality, an issue that is becoming progressively more important. Of course there
will always be potential for improvements to any research agenda, but
considering the flexibility of the developed index and its applications to future
research, I consider the goals of this project met. In the end, this project has
laid the groundwork for future research in the field of rural drinking water
quality, not only along the Front Range, but also internationally. With research
extensions of seasonal variability, spatial distribution, and additional index
parameters, future graduate students and researchers will be able to expound
upon this already established research.

C. iJ JvlltC by Li iveiily Cl- i-is'C Sludfe-t. Tii.iiiu Llh 5n Viei 2010.
1020 ism Street. Unit 12-1
Denver, CO B0202
Well Water Tasting
I am conducting research for my
graduate thesis at UCD to determine
the drinking water quality along the
Front Range. Please contact me to
allow me to test your water. 1 will
provide free testing, results, and
information. Research will be
conducted this summer. Please
respond by June 20.
Contact (The at:
(336) 300-5062
or send a letter to the above address.
Thank you I

I i I K-
Researcher Rabin Lockwood
Protocol 1:10-0385
Residential History
How long have you lived here?_________________________________________
How many people are currently Irving m this bouse?__________
List ages:____________________________
Well Testing lltitery
Mow often Is ytwr water quality checked ?___________________
When was the last tune?_______________________________
What were the results?________________________________________________
Do you chlorinate yoor water?_______________________________
Available Resources
Mow much information do yon receive on the importance of testing yonr water?
Specific sources?___________________________________________
Mas any organization ever offered to test your water for free?
If so, who?_________________________________________________
Any additional comments?

Water Quality Report
Address: it
Date of Testing: September 20, 2010
pj{; 7.08
Salinity: 97.7 pnm
Total Dissolved Solids: 146 ppm
Conductivity: 205 pS/cm
Hardness: 80 ppm
Alkalinity: 110 ppm
Total Chlorine: 0
Nitrate: 0.5 ppm
Nitrite: 0.15 ppm
Presence of CoHform: No
Explanation and Recommendations:
Based on this baseline analysis, your water is of excellent quality. This is probably
attributed to the fact that it is at an elevation above any pollution or agricultural runoff.
This water is comparable to the water after it leaves a drinking water treatment facility.
There is no presence of bacteria, and the levels of conductivity, hardness, and alkalinity
suggest that there are only naturally occurring minerals in your water and no dangerous
pollutants. At this point in time, I recommend that no further testing is required.
if you have any questions or concerns with this analysis, please feel free to contact me at
***---t or call ^ *--*. Keep in mind that this is a very
abbreviated water analysis.

Cwxt- im> wwiuNmi r**<
UW"F*> cV krwta/u U*4l Cwr u
1001 E 17t> n*t Buttng Wt ftxrr. Mj?i i
Jim C4kMk> KIWE
90S 724 I0SS [PlW4|
303 724 0S(l |TAt
ixK edu'ronurti pMat|
comfbftiMMrwtr adu |E4fail[
LWIIP >! al CabM fcwmw
Cnrttflrntn a Fua-iptfa.
Robin Logwood
Snbjret: COMIRB Protocol I0-03K3 Initial Application
EffttUvr Date: 07- May 2010
Anticipated Completion Date: 07-May-2013
Eu^M Calrfary: 2.4
Title: Developing a Rival Drinking Water Quality Index
Thfc protect qndtfkt far nofl stetns. Periodic continuing review it not required. For the dination of your protocol, any
change in the experimental dcsigrvconteol of this study must he approved by the COMIRB before implementation of the changes.
The anticipated completion date ol this prntmol 07-May-2013. COMIRB will administratively close this project on (Jus dale
uoless iithmise instructed rithshy CQfrrspaiMieik'c. telephone or e-mail lo COMIRBtii uedeova rdu U the project elated prior
to this date, pleaae notify the COMIRB office in writing or by e-mail once the project has been closed.
You will be contacted every 3 years for a status report on this project.
Am questions regarding tbe COMIRB Ktitm ul this study should hr referred in the COMIRB staff al .W5-724-1055 nr UCHSC
Box F-490.
Approval Includes.
Request lor Excmpuoo Form. \. 05X1210
Post-card Advertisement
UCD Panel S

Table E.l Raw field data
Ref No. Temp (F) PH TDS (ppm) Cond (uS)
BU07 57.1 7.7 158 223
RG08 64 8.5 80.4 111.2
DI09 58.7 7.5 181 255
BL10 57.2 6.85 184 259
WH11 53.5 7.05 146 205
GA12 62.4 6.94 132 186
RE13 63.3 7.33 173 244
BI14 55.6 7.31 250 352
K015 56.1 7.12 174 245
C016 58.6 6.9 176 248
BE17 63.8 6.81 116 163
HA18 64.8 7.42 196 276
H019 59.4 7.35 160 226
WE20 54.1 7.21 138 194
ST21 60 6.92 104 146
B022 53.8 7.71 230 324
CR23 46.5 7.8 70 98.5
RG24 62.2 8 174 246
PE01 80.5 7.56 1340 1890
PE02 63.9 7.5 1400 1995
MC03 74.5 6.88 1240 1751
LI04 65.3 6.85 2130 3000
DO05 67.7 6.71 2150 3040
BO06 71.8 6.83 1090 1552
OL26 7.8 151 214
OL27 7.8 147 207
TH28 7.6 200 282
P029 7.6 215 304
HA30 7.5 93 130

Table E.l (Cont.)
Ref No. Salinity (ppm) Aik (ppm) Hard (ppm) Nitrate (ppm)
BU07 104 140 110 0.5
RG08 55.5 60 50 0
DI09 121 170 100 0.5
BL10 123 100 120 0
WH11 97.7 110 80 0.5
GA12 88.9 100 80 0.1
RE13 117 200 70 0.5
BI14 168 180 120 3
K015 117 130 100 0.5
C016 118 220 110 0
BE17 79.2 100 100 0
HA18 132 130 120 2
H019 108 160 100 0
WE20 93 150 120 0
ST21 71.4 100 100 0
B022 153 200 110 0.15
CR23 50.4 90 60 0
RG24 117 170 80 0
PE01 948 240 425 2
PE02 996 240 425 4
MC03 879 240 425 2
04 1540 240 425 2
DO05 1540 240 425 1.5
BO06 771 240 425 8
OL26 99.7 100 130 0.5
OL27 97.8 120 130 0.5
TH28 133 170 180 2
P029 143 200 240 2
HA30 62.6 80 80 0.5

Table E.l (Cont.)
Ref No. Nitrite (ppm) Arsenic (ppb) Coliform Date
BU07 0 0 NO 18-Sep
RG08 0 0 YES 20-Sep
DI09 0 0 NO 20-Sep
BL10 0 YES 20-Sep
WH11 0.15 NO 20-Sep
GA12 0.5 NO 20-Sep
RE13 0.05 NO 20-Sep
BI14 0.05 YES 20-Sep
K015 0.05 YES 20-Sep
C016 0 NO 20-Sep
BE17 0 NO 20-Sep
HA18 0 NO 20-Sep
H019 0 NO 20-Sep
WE20 0 YES 20-Sep
ST21 0 NO 20-Sep
B022 0.5 YES 20-Sep
CR23 0 YES 21-Sep
RG24 0 YES 21-Sep
PE01 0 0 YES 13-Aug
PE02 0 0 YES 13-Aug
MC03 0 0 NO 13-Aug
LI04 0 0 NO 13-Aug
DO05 0 0 YES 13-Aug
BO06 0 0 NO 13-Aug
OL26 0 6-Nov
OL27 0 6-Nov
TH28 0.15 6-Nov
P029 0 6-Nov
HA30 0 6-Nov

BH RXfar. Jr.. Govwncr
' Mef^A. Rufat*, Eaaitfve Director
to protfadrs end Jrrtororinglfts/>< snderrdfonmsntrfthspeqplf of Cotoidb
0100 Larv DaRwwl Oenver. CO 00230
PO Bm 17123 Daw, CO 00217
Laboratory Results For Sample Number: ENV-2010014389-
Site Dasaiption i
Customer ID 00011241
CO 1
Contact Lockwood Robin
Lockwood Robin
Co 80211
11/15/2010 08:00:00
Received 11/16/2010 08:18:00
Reported 12/130010 00:00:00
Bottles 1 L tCUT, 1 290N, 1 BACT
Matrix Drinking Water
Field Fluoride
Residual CNorine
Temperature at Recelp&c
Test Name Result (Units NCL HflRL Method Name iDato Analysed IQuellfler
Expanded Annual Colorado Package* Nitrogen, NHrate/Nttrite 0.57 mg/L 10 0.03 EPA 353.2 11/17/2010 00:00:00
pH 7.1 N/A [8.M.5] NA SM4500-H+-B 11/17/2010 H 00:00:00
Solids, Diuolvad 140 mg/L 500 10 EPA 160.1 11/19/2010 00:00:00
Test Group-Total Conform
Total conforms PA
Escherichia coN PA
ABSENT or less
then one (<1),
indicates a
E. coll NOT
SM 0223 B.2.C. 11/16/2010
SM 8223 B.2.C. 11/16/2010
Registry Comments:
MRL Minimum Reporting Limit. MCL Maximum Contaminant Limit per EPA regulations.
BDL Below Detection Urn*. H Holding Time exceeded. Q QuaRy Control ImM exceeded. NT -No Test
Units: mg/L mBgrams per Htar (ppm), ug/L mtcrogrems per Rer (ppb)
LSD Internet Address:

Table F.l Field data for lab sample
Reference No. BU07
pH 7.7
Total Dissolved Solids (ppm) 158
Nitrate/Nitrate (ppm) 0.5
Presence of Coliform No

Table G.l Rural drinking water quality index (RDWQI)
Rural Drinking Water Quality Index
] ]< ilw nilrote ciir.i.intralior. 10 ppm oi above'' 2 H \ss k iracstion 1. jiv ihcra jov diricren under ihe ape *>t '1 tli:il live al llus residence:
o It \es lo i|_estion 1. jiv there one Jnlcren eid lilts that live jl llns residence sillier from diabetes. ihvroid issues. or j^>l rie issues1

- K ilw nil under (..* or os ;r*.i.
o Is ilw pi 1 under o.£ or o\ e r ho.
u. \< ilw irscnw tor.ccntiulion jircalcr thin 10 |Hi HUEHO nr*ni r
]< ilw vor.deaiv nv more than Wxc tlw bard ness. l.\ It ilw bareness is-MXi ppm. is the e0ik.ih.1iv \ more WKi uS
X Is ilw lor.iLao nv more 1.0 mS.' Or UlOil uS.1
o An- ilw dassolv jo solids ere.iwr ihotr ,£u:i p-'in Inu i.r
10. Are the total di"olv cd solids srvalcr than 1 taxi prm 11 ffihe
Index Score

Table G.l (Cont.)
u-1 txceltant
2 3 Good
4-1! Fair
7-10 Poor
1( yout iViHcr is ueoi, you need to corilJLl tlic
LJbor jtjry Services DiviSiur. uf the L JI u r j do
Department of Health ind Divirenrrerit fCDPIIE) at
if yjui Vi is t Li i leeeivcda iJlinLi uf ton it IS
rOLOrrm'ter-ded thol you roaiivL further teclin^ 1-j
determine the complete Quality of ye. iwJlet.
**Did the conform loot Como back positive for total collform?
If yee, then contact tho Laboratory Eorvicoo
Division of CDPHE to conduct a bacteria test to
confirm and determine severity of bacteria

EZ Coliform Test:
1. Wash hands thoroughly before uncapping the bottle or obtaining the
2. Use an inside sink to sample the water, preferably one without a twisting
arm. If possible, remove the aerator attached to the sink nozzle. Reach
up to the sink head and turn the aerator counter-clockwise.
3. Run the water for 2-3 minutes before filling up the test bottle.
4. Fill the test bottle directly from the sink. Read instructions on the bottle
to fill up to the appropriate line. Do not overfill.
5. Immediately recap the bottle (without touching the inside of the cap).
6. Shake until the powder at the bottom of the bottle has dissolved.
7. Set aside and check the bottle in two days.
8. If the water is yellow, there is no coliform present. If it is green or blue,
there is coliform present.
5-in-l Hach Strips:
1. Using one strip, dip into water for one second and remove. Do not shake
the strip.
2. Let it sit flat and wait 30 seconds.
3. Record the amounts for hardness, alkalinity, and pH by matching the
color on the strip to the color on the bottle.
4. Dip strip back in water and swirl it in the water for 30 seconds.
5. Remove the strip and record the amounts for total chlorine and free
chlorine by matching the colors on the strip to the colors on the bottle.
6. When finished, you may throw the strip away.
Nitrate/Nitrite Strips:
1. Using one strip, dip into water for one second and remove. Do not shake
the strip.
2. Let it sit flat and wait for 30 seconds.
3. At 30 seconds, record the amount of nitrite by comparing the color on
the strip to the colors on the bottle.

4. After another 30 seconds, record the amount of nitrate by comparing the
color on the strip to the colors on the bottle.
5. When finished, you may throw the strip away.
Multi-Parameter Tester
1. Insert the tester into your water tester and hit the 'ON' button.
2. Hit the 'PARAMETER' button and notice what it says on the screen. This
is the parameter it is going to test.
3. Wait for the numbers to stop moving, and record that number for the
parameter. Notice what units are in the bottom of the screen and record
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have recorded values for all 4 of your
parameters (pH, salinity, TDS, Conductivity).
Arsenic Test Kit
1. Insert a test strip into the cap of the bottle so that the entire pad of the
strip is covering the small opening under the flap of the lid. Close the
flap to secure the strip.
2. Fill the bottle to the fill line (50 mL) with the water to be tested.
3. Add one packet of Reagent #1 and one packet of Reagent #2 to the
sample. Immediately attach the cap and swirl continuously for 1 minute.
Do not shake the sample or invert it. You want to keep the test strip dry.
4. After 8 minutes, swirl the bottle again.
5. After another 8 minutes, swirl the bottle again.
6. Wait another 4 minutes and remove the test strip.
7. Compare the color on the test strip to the colors on the test strip bottle
to determine the concentration of arsenic.
8. Discard of the liquid in the bottle in a hazardous waste container. DO
9. You may throw away your test strip in the trash.

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