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 OFR96-1a ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
1996, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The regional hydrogeologic setting, including sources of recharge, discharge, ground-water flow paths, and water quality are highly variable in the Dakota aquifer of Kansas. Locally, the heterogeneity in the aquifer framework strongly influences ground-water availability and the potential for...
Cover of fs2016-3087; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Ohio’s water resources support a complex web of human activities and nature—clean and abundant water is needed for drinking, recreation, farming, and industry, as well as for fish and wildlife needs. Although rainfall in normal years can support these activities and needs, occasional floods and...
Cover of UR-52 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1989, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
This report contains the results of a ground-water investigation, conducted by the South Dakota Geological Survey, for the city of Hoven, Walworth County, South Dakota. Field work was conducted from May 27 to June 3, 1983, and on June 18 and 19, 1984. The investigation included the drilling of 16...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2012, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The gap between available freshwater resources and the demand for water is increasing due to growing energy, agricultural, public, industrial and mining demands, as well as the contamination of water resources caused by many of man’s activities. While mining represents a very small faction of the...
Cover of OFR03-01 ; Source: Minnesota Geological Survey
2003, Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS)
The Paleozoic bedrock in the northwest part of the Twin Cities Metropolitan area (Fig. 1) has been increasingly relied upon as a source of potable water. Most municipal wells in the area are now constructed to draw water from Paleozoic bedrock because productive drift aquifers are uncommon and are...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3061 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Kansas Water Science Center (KSWSC), in cooperation with local, State, and other Federal agencies, maintains a long-term network of hydrologic monitoring gages in the State of Kansas. These include 195 real-time streamflow-gaging stations (herein gages) and 12 real...
Cover image for OFR13-1 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2013, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The City of Shenandoah currently has nine shallow alluvial wells that vary in depth from 34 feet in Well 21 and Well 25, to 51 feet in Well 87-2 (Figures 1 and 2). Drought conditions during the summer of 2012 severely limited water production from the nine wells, especially in wells 07-1 and 25. On...
Cover of IS49; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1999, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
Addresses salinity in the Roaring Fork River Basin, Snowmass-Glenwood Springs Area. Data suggests that dissolution of evaporitic rocks in regional structural collapse center contributes to salt loading in nearby streams.
Cover of UR-48 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1988, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
Arlington previously obtained its water from a 618-foot deep well tapping a basal glacial aquifer, the Altamont aquifer (Hamilton, in prep.) (fig. 2). The City decided to investigate the potential of all aquifers in this area before drilling a new city well and asked the South Dakota Geological...
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...