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

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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. 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 UR-78 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
During the summer of 1993, an investigation was conducted by the South Dakota Geological Survey for the city of Madison to evaluate the Skunk Creek aquifer for additional municipal well development The results are presented in this report. The investigation was financed by the South Dakota...
Cover image for WRI-6 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2012, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The groundwater flow model for the Floyd River aquifer near Sheldon was used to simulate a severe drought. Water level data during the summer of 2012 were used to help calibrate the model. Based on the mass balance calculations in the model, the percentage of water production supplied by the Floyd...
Cover of SIR2015-5121; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Development of the Wichita well field began in the 1940s in the Equus Beds aquifer to provide the city of Wichita, Kansas, a new water-supply source. After development of the Wichita well field began, groundwater levels began to decline. Extensive development of irrigation wells that began in the...
Cover of RI 74 ; Source: Maryland Geological Survey
2002, Maryland Geological Survey (MGS)
Water use in Southern Anne Arundel County consists primarily of self-supplied domestic use from the Aquia aquifer. The deeper Magothy aquifer is utilized to a lesser extent as a source for mobile home parks and irrigation. A total of approximately 1.8 and 0.22 million gallons per day were pumped...
Cover of fs2016-3101; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2017, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in Catahoula 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 fs2015-3061; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) installed the first gage to measure the flow of water into California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta from the Sacramento River in the late 1800s. Today, a network of 35 hydro-acoustic meters measure flow throughout the delta. This region is a critical part of...
Cover of UR-67 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1994, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
In 1989, a water quality monitoring program was initiated in the Big Sioux aquifer. The objective of this program was to establish a permanent ground water monitoring network throughout the Big Sioux River drainage basin (fig. 1) and systematically sample this network, over a period of years, to...
Cover of PP1712; Source: USGS
2006, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
This study was done to improve the understanding of trends in streamflow of the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona. Annual streamflow of the river at Charleston, Arizona, has decreased by more than 50 percent during the 20th century. The San Pedro River is one of the few remaining free-flowing...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3060 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Strategic Needs of Water on the Yukon (SNOWY) is an interdisciplinary research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF; https://www.nsf.gov/). The SNOWY team is made up of a diverse group of researchers from different backgrounds and organizations. This partnership between scientists...
Cover of fs2017-3008; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2017, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2016, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the San Antonio Water System, began a study to refine previously derived estimates of groundwater outflows from Medina and Diversion Lakes in south-central Texas near San Antonio. When full, Medina and Diversion Lakes (hereinafter...