Water

PDF versionPDF version

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

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...
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...

Case Studies & Factsheets

CI_Factsheet_2017_6_MAR_170921_thumb.JPG

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....

CI_CaseStudy_2017_2_MAR_170925_thumb.JPG

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...

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...

CI_Factsheet_2017_2_groundwater_170309_thumb.JPG

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...

GOLI Online Courses

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: 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...

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...

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: 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...

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...

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
2018-11-15
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-...

Research Database Publications

Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
The situation is not always bleak when a household water well fails to produce the amount of water that it did when it was first installed. Instead of the expense of abandoning the well and installing a new one, a professional contractor can often “rehabilitate” the well and restore flows that...
Cover of fs2016-3023 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Urbanization affects streamflow characteristics, coastal flooding, and groundwater recharge. Increasing impervious areas, streamflow diversions, and groundwater pumpage are some of the ways that the natural water cycle is affected by urbanization. Assessment of the relations among these factors and...
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 PP1723; Source: USGS
2006, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In the first half of the 20th century, engineering geology and geotechnical engineering were in their infancy, and dams were often built where landslides provided valley constrictions, often without expert site investigation. Only the most important projects were subjected to careful geologic...
Cover image for USGS FS 2014-3098; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The BCM is a fine-scale hydrologic model that uses detailed maps of soils, geology, topography, and transient monthly or daily maps of potential evapotranspiration, air temperature, and precipitation to generate maps of recharge, runoff, snow pack, actual evapotranspiration, and climatic water...
Cover image for USGS FS 2013-3041; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides streamflow and other related information needed by water-resource managers responsible for protecting people and property from floods, planning and managing water-resource activities, and protecting water quality. Streamflow statistics provided by the USGS...
Cover of Bulletin_66; Source: Florida Geological Survey
2004, Florida Geological Survey (FGS)
In 2001, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Springs Initiative to further the State's ability to conserve and protect our valuable freshwater spring resources. As part of this larger program the FGS began a three year project to update and complete the state's inventory of these resources....
Cover of FS2015-3020; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program is assessing stream quality in the Pacific Northwest. The goals of the Pacific Northwest Stream Quality Assessment (Pacific Northwest study) are to assess the quality of streams in the region by...
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 of FS2015-3026; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The maps and graphs in this summary describe streamflow conditions for water year 2014 (October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014) in the context of the 85-year period from 1930 through 2014, unless otherwise noted. The illustrations are based on observed data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS)...