Water

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Water is essential for society and, as demand steadily rises, our most precious commodity. Geoscientists study how to provide a clean and secure water source to meet society's needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
U.S. Geological Survey

Case Studies & Factsheets

Cover of U.S. Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations

Overview Regulation of oil and gas operations has existed in various forms for over 100 years.1 Regulation has several objectives: protecting the environment (including air and water quality), protecting cultural resources, protecting workers’ and the public’s health and safety, and reducing wasted...

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Traditional geoscience departments commonly require 60 semester hours of geology and geology-related elective courses to achieve a BA/BS degree. Of the 60 hours, typically half are required courses in geology. Recently, the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG®) evaluated more...

Cover of Abandoned Wells

Introduction In 2017, there were one million active oil and gas wells in the United States.1 When a well reaches the end of its productive life, or if it fails to find economic quantities of oil or gas, the well operator is required by regulators to remove all equipment and plug the well to prevent...

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According to recent American Geosciences Institute (AGI) workforce data, less than 11% of geoscience graduates receiving a BA/BS or MA/MS degree develop a career in academia and/or research. Given this statistic, the question then arises: How are geologists making a living upon graduation in 2019?...

Cover of Using Produced Water

Opportunities and Concerns in Using Produced Water Produced water is natural groundwater that is extracted along with oil and gas. It is commonly salty and mixed with oil residues,1 so it must be either disposed of or treated and reused. About 2.5 billion gallons of produced water are extracted...

Cover of Heavy Oil

Introduction Naturally occurring crude oil comes in many forms. The most familiar to many people is light crude oil, which is less dense than water and flows easily at room temperature. Heavy oil and bitumen are forms of crude oil that are more viscous (thicker) and dense. The largest crude oil...

Fig. 1. A groundwater hydrograph from a domestic well completed in an isolated sandstone of the Cretaceous lower Mancos Shale. The water level dropped about 70 ft in one year and the well subsequently went dry. Credit: P. Johnson

The geologic and groundwater mapping products support county land use and planning decisions in this rapidly developing area. State water agencies, planners, developers, home owners, home buyers, real estate agents, and county officials use the maps to support an array of decisions regarding water...

Cover of Groundwater Protection in Oil and Gas Production

Introduction The United States relies on groundwater for roughly 25% of its fresh water.1 This groundwater is found in porous, permeable rocks (aquifers) that often lie close to the Earth’s surface – the deepest freshwater aquifers are found more than 6,000 feet underground,2 but most are much...

Cover of Offshore Oil and Gas

Introduction Many of the world’s oil and gas resources lie beneath the oceans. Advances in exploration, drilling, and production technologies allow production in water more than 10,000 feet deep and more than 100 miles offshore. Major spills are rare but damage sensitive ocean and coastal...

Cover of Water in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction The oil and gas industry consumes and produces water. Water is used to drill and hydraulically fracture (“frack”) wells, refine and process oil and gas, and produce electricity in some natural gas power plants. Water is also naturally present in the rocks that contain oil and gas and...

Cover of Geoscientists in Petroleum and the Environment

Introduction Geoscience – the study of the Earth – underpins our understanding of the many intersections between petroleum and the environment, from the search for resources to the study of air pollutants. Without the work of geoscientists, we would have neither the energy system nor the...

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Introduction Dry wells improve stormwater drainage and aquifer recharge by providing a fast, direct route for rainwater to drain deep into underlying sediment and rock. Dry wells are most common in the western U.S. where clay or caliche layers slow down the natural drainage of water into underlying...

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The Need for Groundwater Management: Sustaining water supplies and preventing hazards In California, surface water from rainfall, snowmelt, and distant rivers rarely meets the state’s urban and agricultural water needs. Groundwater is an essential water source, providing 35% of the fresh water used...

Fig. 1 - The geologic map of part of the Pell City quadrangle, AL, accurately identifies the recharge area of the Fort Payne Chert aquifer (medium blue) that must be protected from pollution. Credit: W. Thomas

In central Alabama, the Mississippian-age Fort Payne Chert is an important aquifer for domestic and municipal water supplies. Geologic mapping shows the extent of Fort Payne Chert exposure at the ground surface, which is the recharge area for the aquifer. Planning for protection of the groundwater...

Cover of The Pinedale Gas Field, Wyoming

Introduction The Pinedale field is the sixth-largest gas field in the United States.1 The core development area covers about 70 square miles in a sparsely populated area of southwest Wyoming, 70-100 miles north of Rock Springs.2 In 2015, the Pinedale field produced 4 million barrels of gas...

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Why water storage? A reliable water supply is essential for economic, environmental, and public health, but natural water supplies vary with the seasons and between years. Water storage, whether in reservoir lakes or underground, helps to ensure that water is available even during droughts....

Cover of Water Sources for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Demand Hydraulically fracturing a modern well can require millions of gallons of water for the initial fracturing process. This is a potential problem in arid regions with competing demands for fresh water (i.e. high water stress), such as Colorado and West Texas (see...

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Fresh water from underground Groundwater is any water found underground in the cracks and pores in soil, sand, or rock. Groundwater provides 25% of the fresh water used in the United States.1 It is particularly important for irrigation and domestic uses in arid or remote areas, where surface water...

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What is a Dry Well? A dry well is a well that is used to transmit surface water underground and is deeper than its width at the surface (see image, below). Most dry wells are 30 to 70 feet deep and 3 feet wide at the surface. They are lined with perforated casings and can be filled with gravel or...

Cover of Spills in Oil and Natural Gas Fields

Introduction Oilfield spills can harm wildlife and pose a risk to human health if they reach fresh water sources or contaminate soil or air. The enormous size of the oil and gas industry and the huge volumes of oil and produced water that are handled, stored, and transported result in thousands of...

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