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

Latest News

Atlantic waves
(2018-07-10)
June 19, 2018 On June 19, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13840, “Ocean Policy to Advance Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States,” revoking and replacing much of the previous administration’s ocean policy. E.O. 13840 seeks to improve interagency...
U.S. Capitol with flag
(2018-07-09)
June 28, 2018 In June 2018, the House and Senate consecutively passed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 5895) to make progress on the appropriations process before the fiscal year (FY) 2019 deadline of September...
IES Water Glyph
(2018-06-07)
May 23, 2018 Aiming to complete one of their top legislative priorities before the end of this session of Congress, lawmakers from both the House and the Senate introduced bipartisan bills to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which should be passed every two years. The last...
U.S. Supreme Court building
(2018-02-06)
January 31, 2018 On January 22, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that any challenges to the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule must be filed in federal district courts, not federal courts of appeals. Since the WOTUS Rule was finalized in 2015, dozens of parties filed lawsuits in both...
Ocean Core Sampling
(2018-02-06)
January 8, 2018 On January 8, the Senate unanimously passed Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act (S.1425). The bipartisan bill revises and reauthorizes the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (ICOOS) Act of 2009 (33 USC 3601), which established the...
Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
(2017-12-13)
November 14, 2017 Following months of debate on the floor continuing late in the day on November 14, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five more years, while making several operational changes. According to the...
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...

Case Studies & Factsheets

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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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...

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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...

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...

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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 (...

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...

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...

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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...

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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....

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GOLI Online Courses

Webinar
2018-11-15
Course Type: Webinar

Depending upon how you have maintained your well, the costs for re-development will vary. For example, for a well that has not been maintained, the costs and methods for re-development can be very high. For well-maintained wells, re-development costs should be less. Remember that part of the re-...

GOLI Course: Water as One Resource; Image Copyright © Marli Miller, University of Oregon. http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides an overview of how groundwater and surface water interact, what the implications of these interactions on water resources are, and how water can be more effectively managed if an understanding of these interactions is incorporated.

The course presenters are Ken...

Webinar
2018-08-30
Course Type: Webinar

The glacial and bedrock geology of New England is varied and complex.  We will take you on a journey through the formation of these geological features and then provide information on why a groundwater well in this geological terrane needs to be re-developed and how we know when a well needs to...

GOLI Course: Desalination as a Source of Fresh Water; Image credit: James Grellier, Licensed under Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource in an increasingly populous and water-intensive world. Maintaining an adequate supply of fresh water both nationally and globally will be one of the largest challenges of the 21st century. Desalination of salty water – from both the ocean and the...

GOLI Course: Converting Membrane Interface Probe Sensor Results into VOC NAPL Distribution Information. Image courtesy of Roger Lamb
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course will focus on how to use Membrane Interface Probe sensor results in combination with soil and groundwater analytical results to map the distribution of volatile organic chemical non aqueous phase liquids. This course covers guidelines for using direct sensing tools such as the MIHPT...

Webinar
2018-09-20
Course Type: Webinar

A groundwater well is a lifeline for many people and communities.  It will provide drinking water for decades, if it is properly maintained.  Just like your teeth need to be cleaned by the dentist and the oil in your car’s engine needs to be changed to maintain a long and healthy life, so does...

GOLI Course: Making Produced Water More Productive; Image credit: USGS/ Doug Duncan
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Geoscience is essential to our understanding and management of produced water, an inevitable byproduct of oil and gas development. This course provides a scientific and regulatory background of produced water, how it is commonly disposed, what opportunities exist for the re-use of produced water...

Webinar
2018-10-18
Course Type: Webinar

There is no magic method to clean a well.  There are many techniques, some that have been used for decades, others are fairly recent.  The objective of the re-development is to return the well to its condition when it was installed.  We introduced the term Specific Capacity in an earlier session...

GOLI Course: Techniques for Developing High Resolution LNAPL Conceptual Site Models; Image courtesy of Roger Lamb
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course is intended for geologists involved in Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL) assessment and remediation. This course provides information on the development of high resolution conceptual site models that can be used to guarantee the project goals are met. The class will cover...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

1981, West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey
Practical advice for the homeowner on what to do about a well that produces too little water. Discusses well development and water-storage systems.
1988, Maryland Geological Survey
In the crystalline rock of the Piedmont of Cecil County, Maryland, water is present in openings caused by fracturing and weathering. In the Coastal Plain sediments, water is present between grains. The median yield of wells in crystalline rock is 10 gal/min. The major aquifers in Cecil County are...
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey

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1994, South Dakota Geological Survey

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2000, Kansas Geological Survey
Water levels measured in January 2000 generally showed fewer declines and more rises in region I (southwest), a tendency toward water-level decline in region II (west-central), stationary water levels in region III (northwest), and slight decline in region V (south-central). The 2000 measurements...
1999, Kansas Geological Survey
Water levels measured in January 1999 generally showed more declines and fewer rises in region I (southwest), a slight tendency toward water-level decline in region II (west-central) and in region III (northwest), and a tendency toward water-level rise in region V (south-central) except in the...
2003, Georgia Geologic Survey
During 2000, water use in Georgia was estimated for each country by category using data obtained from various Federal and State agencies and local sources. Categories of offstream water use include public supply, domestic, commercial, industrial, mining, irrigation, livestock, and thermoelectric...
1970, Delaware Geological Survey
Information on ground-water quality in Delaware has become critical for three reasons: (1) increased water demand, (2) need for a better understanding of ground-water flow patterns, (3) need for a "base" against which future quality changes can be measured. Analyses of about 150 water...
2016, United States Geological Survey
Using Landsat satellite data, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have helped to refine a technique called evapotranspiration (ET) mapping to measure how much water crops are using across landscapes and through time. These water-use maps are created using a computer model that...
2015, United States Geological Survey
During 2005-8, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Water Department, measured concentrations of sodium and chloride, plant nutrients, commonly used pesticides, and caffeine in base-flow and stormwater samples collected from 11 tributaries in the Cambridge...