Environmental Earth Sciences

, 78:543 | Cite as

Arsenic in the waters and sediments of the Humboldt River, North-Central Nevada, USA: hydrological and mineralogical investigation

  • Shahnewaz MohammadEmail author
  • Regina N. Tempel
Original Article


Arsenic (As) concentration in the Humboldt River (HR) water ranges from 0.012 to 0.06 mg/L, with an average of 0.032 mg/L. The river water is alkaline with pH 8.4–9.3 and oxic with average 12 mg/L of dissolved O2 and + 139 mV of oxidation–reduction potential (ORP). The river water contains an average specific electrical conductivity of 1000 µS/cm with elevated B (average 0.77 mg/L), Li (average 0.15 mg/L), Cl (average 158 mg/L), and SO4 (average 178 mg/L). Factor analysis of river water chemistry and sediment chemistry suggests several physical and geochemical processes operating in three sub-regions: upper, middle and lower reaches of the river. Oxidative dissolution of As-bearing sulfide minerals in the upstream is the primary source of As to the water. Groundwater–surface water interactions affect As concentrations in localized area between the middle and lower HR. Further enrichment of As occurs by evaporation in the lower reach and the terminal sink of the river. Results of sequential extraction analysis and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the riverbed sediments suggest that As distribution in the river sediments is controlled by partitioning to clay minerals and Fe-oxy-hydroxides.


Arsenic Humboldt River Nevada Oxidation Ferrihydrite Clay minerals 



We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Simon Poulson at Nevada Stable Isotope Laboratory at the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering (MSESE) of University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) for his help with the stable isotope analysis. We acknowledge the contribution of Dr.Paul J Lechler at Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology for his help with the ICPMS analysis of total elements. We thank to the Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering laboratory at UNR for EDS analysis of the sediments using SEM. We truly appreciate Dr. James W. LaMoreaux for editorial handling and reviewer’s comments to improve the manuscript.


Funding for the laboratory analysis was provided by the grant to the PI by the University of Nevada, Reno. Funding for fieldwork and sample collection was provided by the Geological Society of America Student grant.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Program of Hydrologic SciencesUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological Sciences and EngineeringUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA

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