Observation of Isotope Ratios (δ2H, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr) of Tap Water in Urban Environments

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Christy J Mancuso, Brett James Tipple and James R Ehleringer, University of Utah, Department of Biology, Salt Lake City, UT, United States
Urban environments are centers for rapidly growing populations. In order to meet the culinary water needs of these areas, municipal water departments use water from multiple locations and/or sources, often piped differentially to different locations within a municipality. This practice creates isotopically distinct locations within an urban area and therefore provides insight to urban water management practices. In our study we selected urban locations in the Salt Lake Valley, UT (SLV) and San Francisco Bay Area, CA (SFB) where we hypothesized geographically distinct water isotopic ratio differences existed. Within the SLV, municipal waters come from the same mountainous region, but are derived from different geologically distinct watersheds. In contrast, SFB waters are derived from regionally distinct water sources. We hypothesized that the isotope ratios of tap waters would differ based upon known municipal sources. To test this, tap water samples were collected throughout the urban regions in SLV and SFB and analyzed for δ2H, δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios. Seasonal collections were also made to assess if isotope ratios differed throughout the year. Within SLV and SFB, different regions were characterized by distinct paired δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr values. These different realms also agreed with known differences in municipal water supplies within the general geographic region. Waters from different cities within Marin County showed isotopic differences, consistent with water derived from different local reservoirs. Seasonal variation was observed in paired δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr values of tap water for some locations within SLV and SFB, indicating management decisions to shift from one water source to another depending on demand and available resources. Our study revealed that the δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr values of tap waters in an urban region can exhibit significant differences despite close spatial proximity if districts differ in their use of local versus transported waters.