Water

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

Latest News

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2017-10-10)
September 27, 2017 In recent years, massive harmful algal blooms (HABs) have devastated critical habitats along the Florida coasts and Great Lakes. These phenomena can cause significant “dead zones” and disastrous consequences for ecosystems and economies, resulting in economic losses from multi-...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2017-05-18)
April 26, 2017 On April 26, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held an oversight hearing to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The WOTUS rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, was established to provide a more clear definition of...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2017-05-18)
April 4, 2017 The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosted a briefing on April 4 to discuss the economic and public health impacts of harmful algal blooms. An algal bloom is a rapid accumulation of algae in freshwater or marine systems. It can be caused by various different species, both harmful and...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2017-04-10)
March 16, 2017 Representative Scott Peters (D-CA-52) introduced the Secure and Resilient Water Systems Act (H.R.1579) on March 16. The bill would help communities protect their drinking water systems from drought, industrial pollution, and potential attacks. The bill amends the Safe Drinking Water...
IES Water Glyph
(2017-03-06)
February 15, 2017 On February 15, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-6) introduced an amendment  (H.R.1068) to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which was last amended in 1996. H.R.1068 would update laws, direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set deadlines for the development of new...
Hawaiian flower
(2016-11-03)
October 18, 2016 On October 18, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing at the Hawaiian State Capitol in Honolulu. The hearing addressed current water resource scarcity issues facing the state and recent water legislation. Hawaii‘s freshwater supplies are drawn almost...
Screenshot of interactive map of North Dakota surface water quality. Image Credit: North Dakota Department of Health
(2016-11-02)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of surface water quality in North Dakota from the North Dakota Department of Health (@NDDOH), which you can find at http://bit.ly/2fsqStI. For information about water issues in North Dakota, check out our...
Irrigation equipment. (Background: Copyright Shutterstock.com/Sergey Nivens; right: Copyright Shutterstock.com/Cecilia Lim H M)
(2016-10-28)
The 2016 Critical Issues Forum, Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer concluded today at the Colorado School of Mines Ben H. Parker Student Center. An initial summary of social media posts using #CIForum16 were compiled connecting people to...
AGI Forum 2016 Groundwater Issues
(2016-10-21)
There is still time to register for this event! The 2016 Critical Issues Forum, Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer, will be held October 27-28 in Golden, Colorado. If you are a current student or belong to an AGI member society, you will...
Interactive map of water wells in Nebraska. Image Credit: Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
(2016-10-14)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of water wells in Nebraska from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (@NebraskaDNR), which you can find at bit.ly/22dbeyi. For more information on groundwater issues in the High Plains, consider...

Case Studies & Factsheets

CI_Factsheet_2017_6_MAR_170921_thumb.JPG

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....

CI_CaseStudy_2017_2_MAR_170925_thumb.JPG

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...

CI_Factsheet_2017_5_drywellprograms_170906_thumb.JPG

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...

CI_Factsheet_2017_4_drywellbasics_170906_thumb.JPG

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...

CI_Factsheet_2017_2_groundwater_170309_thumb.JPG

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...

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

Defining the Problem In central Alabama, the Mississippian-age Fort Payne Chert is an important aquifer for domestic and municipal water supplies. Rainfall recharges groundwater where the chert is exposed at the land surface. Where the chert has been quarried, many of the abandoned pits have...

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

Defining the Problem The population of the historic village of Placitas, New Mexico, in the picturesque and geologically complex Sandia foothills north of Albuquerque, has tripled since 1970. Increased domestic well development, combined with persistent droughts, have culminated in dry and...

Research Database Publications

Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Perhaps the most important natural phenomenon on Earth, the hydrologic cycle describes the constant movement and endless recycling of water between the atmosphere, the land surface, and under the ground. The hydrologic cycle supplies the force needed for most natural processes, thus supporting life...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Brackish water does not have an exact definition, but it is typically defined as distastefully salty, but less saline than seawater (between 1,000 to 10,000 ppm [parts per million] in total dissolved solids [TDS]). In addition to certain surface water settings such as estuaries, brackish water can...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
MTBE has been in the news more and more in recent years. A chemical added to gasoline to help it burn cleaner and aid air quality, it has been showing up in water supplies as a contaminant. In fact, it reportedly has been detected in groundwater at some levels in 49 states. People are now asking...
Cover of TM7; Source: Wyoming State Geological Survey
2014, Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS)
Technical Memorandum S of the previous Snake/Salt River Basin Water Plan (Sunrise Engineering and others, 2003) contains a groundwater resource investigation that thoroughly examines the basin’s resources and usage. This Available Groundwater Determination represents the most current assessment of...
Cover of SIR2012-5251; Source: USGS
2012, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
This report details the findings of the Bureau of Land Management–U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystem Services Valuation Pilot Study. This project evaluated alternative methods and tools that quantify and value ecosystem services, and it assessed the tools’ readiness for use in the Bureau of Land...
Cover of fs2016-3065; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Bridge-scour equations presented in the Federal Highway Administration Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 18 reflect the current state-of-the practice for predicting scour at bridges. Although these laboratory-derived equations provide an important resource for assessing scour potential, there is a...
Cover of fs2016-3083 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in Washington Parish, Louisiana, is critical for proper water-resource management. The purpose of this fact sheet is to present information that can be used by water managers, parish residents, and others for stewardship of this...
Cover of fs2015-3077; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are finding evidence of a much wetter past in the deserts of the American Southwest using a most unlikely source—wetlands. Wetlands form in arid environments where water tables approach or breach the ground surface. Often thought of as stagnant and...
Cover image for WA-8 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
1989, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
In 1965 a cooperative investigation with the U.S. Geological Survey produced Water Atlas No. 1 (Twenter and Coble, 1965). It presented information on the occurrence, availability, use, quality, and future demand of water in 10 counties in the central part of the state. Subsequent investigations...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
A well should be designed to meet the needs of the home that it will serve. However, it is the geology of the earth that will dictate the best design and construction method for the well. This factsheet provides information that you should know before you purchase a well to serve your home or...