Water Resources Professional Project Reports

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



This study examined the distribution of uranium in drainages in Cove wash in northeastern Arizona. The dispersion of uranium from reclaimed mine sites on the Navajo Nation is not well studied in soils, sediment, and water. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Cove mining region produced relative uranium and vanadium ore. Legacy uranium mines in Cove Mesa were reclaimed in phases between the early 1990s to 1998. Following reclamation, however, in 1999, elevated concentrations of uranium were detected in well, seeps and surface water in the watershed, which are above the EPAs MCL (30 μg/L). In August 2011, solid (sediment, soil, and rock), and water (surface and ground) samples were collected down-gradient from reclaimed uranium mines on Cove Mesa and in background areas to determine the distribution and characteristics of uranium and other trace metals. In addition, radiometric surveys were conducted in the study drainage area (4.3 mi2). Surface and groundwater samples were analyzed for major cations and anions, trace metals, alkalinity, and 18O. Solid samples were analyzed to determine trace element composition. The results were compared with a 1999 EPA study to determine changes in water chemistry and provide a new baseline value for future investigation. The hypothesis that concentrations of uranium in surface water remain elevated since 1999 was supported. This research provides better understanding of the current distribution of uranium and other trace metals on the Navajo Nation.

Language (ISO)



Uranium mines and mining--Environmental aspects--Navajo Indian Reservation., Uranium--Environmental aspects--Navajo Indian Reservation., Water quality--Navajo Indian Reservation., Groundwater--Quality--Navajo Indian Reservation.


A Professional Project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.