Water Availability

Water is constantly moving on the Earth between the atmosphere, ocean, rivers and streams, snowpacks and ice sheets, and underground. Water availability, both as surface water and groundwater, is essential for agriculture, human consumption, industry, and energy generation.

Basics

Floodplain. Image Copyright © Michael Collier, http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images

Fresh water is available as surface water (such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs) and groundwater (found underground in rock or soil layers, and accessed through wells or natural springs). Water is constantly moving on the Earth between the atmosphere, ocean, and different fresh water bodies. Climate, land use, local geology, and water quality all affect the availability of fresh water resources in addition to the direct demands people place on them.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

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
(2017-04-10)
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...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2016-11-29)
November 10, 2016 The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has announced a new grant program that will award up to $2 million in cooperative agreements for new state and local water resource agencies participating in the National Groundwater Monitoring Network (NGWMN). The funds will be used to provide...
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...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2016-10-20)
October 4, 2016 Five federal agencies are working to increase consumers’ awareness of the benefits of switching to water- and energy-efficient fixtures and building codes. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have released statements...
Screenshot of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal map
(2016-09-29)
On September 27th and 28th, our Critical Issues intern attended a workshop hosted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Policy Program: “Opportunities and Needs in Integrated Water Prediction, Risk Assessment, and Management for Coastal Resilience.” The first day focused on resilience issues...
Interactive map of Illinois water wells. Image Credit: Illinois State Geological Survey
(2016-09-26)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of water wells in Illinois from the Illinois State Geological Survey (@ILGeoSurvey), which you can find at http://bit.ly/1EE9HoT. If you're interested in learning more about groundwater resources, check out...
Flyer for the Free Desalination as a Source of Fresh Water Webinar
(2016-09-01)
The American Geosciences Institute Critical Issues Program, along with the National Ground Water Association, the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists, and the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists will be hosting a free webinar titled, "Desalination...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2016-07-28)
July 12, 2016 Water supply remained a hotly debated topic in the House Natural Resources Committee on Water, Power, and Oceans Subcommittee. During an oversight hearing on Changing Demands and Water Supply Uncertainty in California, members and witnesses discussed conflicting proposals between the...
IES Water Glyph
(2016-07-11)
June 29, 2016 The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing led by Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) to discuss bills addressing contentious tribal water rights in Montana and Arizona (S. 3013 and S. 2959) and repealing obsolete laws relating to Native Americans (S. 2796). Introduced by Sen....

Case Studies & Factsheets

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...

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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. 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 ProblemThe 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 UR-83 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1997, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
During the summer of 1982, the South Dakota Geological Survey conducted a study for the city of Garretson, South Dakota. The purpose of this investigation was to determine potential sources of ground water within a radius of approximately 5 miles from the city, excluding the land in Minnesota....
Cover image of position paper; Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
The groundwater industry is poised to help move the nation forward in ensuring its long-term water and energy needs are met. Focused, informed federal government policies and funding that support 21st century infrastructure can assist in achieving a secure water and energy future while providing...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3043 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in Acadia Parish, Louisiana, is critical for proper water-supply 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 vital...
Cover of OFR02-36 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2002, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
A reliable source of water is essential to the well-being and livelihoods of people in the High Plains region where ground water is used for drinking water, ranching, farming, and other purposes. Many areas of the High Plains aquifer have experienced a dramatic depletion of this resource. Large-...
Cover image for USGS FS 2014-3089; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in La Salle Parish, Louisiana, is critical for proper water-supply 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 vital...
Cover of AR_2013-2014; Source: Kentucky Geological Survey
2014, Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS)
Groundwater is a vital resource to Kentucky. It is used extensively throughout the state for domestic, agricultural, commercial, and industrial purposes. Because of its connection with rivers, lakes, and wetlands, groundwater is also essential to the health of surface-water ecosystems. Determining...
Cover of FS2014-3114; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Northern Coast Ranges (NOCO) study unit is 633 square miles and consists of 35 groundwater basins and subbasins (California Department of Water Resources, 2003; Mathany and Belitz, 2015). These basins and subbasins were grouped into two study areas based primarily on locality. The groundwater...
Cover of UR-61 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1990, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The investigation was conducted in August, 1988, by the South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS) at the request of the city of Burke, South Dakota, to assist the city in locating a potential site for a new municipal well. The investigation was financed by the city of Burke and the state of South...
Cover of RI77; Source: Delaware Geological Survey
2011, Delaware Geological Survey (DGS)
To understand the effects of projected increased demands on groundwater for water supply, a finite-difference, steady-state, groundwater flow model was used to simulate groundwater flow in the Coastal Plain sediments of southern New Castle County, Delaware. The model simulated flow in the Columbia...
Cover of PP1766; Source: USGS
2009, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
California’s Central Valley covers about 20,000 square miles and is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. More than 250 different crops are grown in the Central Valley with an estimated value of $17 billion per year. This irrigated agriculture relies heavily on surface-water...