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

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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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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...

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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...

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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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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 of sir20165122; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Namskaket Marsh and its tidal creek system are potential receptors for a treated wastewater plume originating from a septage treatment facility in the northwest part of Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. From 1989 to 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with State and local partners,...
Cover of WaterResources6.pdf; Source: American Institute of Professional Geologists
2006, American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG)
Water is the most important natural resource on the planet. Without it all life would perish and the earth would be nothing like it is today. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, many experts believe that we are transitioning from a mode of water-supply development to that of water demand...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Agriculture requires a steady supply of water to meet crop and livestock requirements, linking food security directly to water security. Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater resources in the world. Some countries do not have sufficient supplies of surface water to meet their...
Cover image for WRI-11 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2015, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) completed a drought assessment to evaluate current and future groundwater availability for the Osceola County Rural Water District (OCRWD) wellfield near May City, Iowa. In addition, a calibrated groundwater flow model was constructed to provide OCRWD with various...
IES Water cover image
2011, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
As we did a generation ago, we now face significant challenges — challenges that need to be met sooner rather than later to protect and grow our economy, build energy autonomy and preserve our resources for future generations. These challenges center on two resources: energy and water.
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3045 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Edwards aquifer is the primary source of potable water for the San Antonio area in south-central Texas. The Knippa Gap area is a structural low (trough) postulated to channel or restrict flow in the Edwards aquifer in eastern Uvalde and western Medina Counties, Tex. To better understand the...
Cover image of position paper; Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
The National Ground Water Association position is that: To the maximum extent possible, the government should contract with private sector firms for the performance of groundwater investigations and development, including but not limited to exploratory drilling, the installation of wells for...
Cover of OFR98-2 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
1998, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The Kansas River corridor is the major source of sand and gravel for northeastern Kansas. Sand and gravel is obtained either by river dredging or pit dredging in the floodplain. The river dredges produce some of the best-quality and least-expensive sand in the United States. In October 1997, nine...
Cover of sir20165164; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hawai'i's aquifers have limited capacity to store fresh groundwater because each island is small and surrounded by saltwater. Saltwater also underlies much of the fresh groundwater. Fresh groundwater resources are, therefore, particularly vulnerable to human activity, short-term climate cycles, and...
Cover of U.S. Geological Survey_2015-1076; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Oil-particle interactions and oil submergence are of much interest to oil spill responders and scientists, especially as transportation of light and heavy crude oils increases in North America’s coastal marine and freshwater environments. This report contains an up-to-date review of the state of...