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

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...

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.

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. Roger Lamb, the course presenter, provides information on the development of high resolution conceptual site models that can be used to guarantee the project goals are met. The...

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. Roger Lamb, covers guidelines for using direct sensing tools such as the MIHPT...

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...

Research Database Publications

Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
In water well construction, it is the drilling process that gets to the water. But the heart of a water well system—the part that gets the water to your house—is the pumping system.What type of pump you use can depend on a variety of factors including the depth of the water, water quantity, system...
Cover for WRS17; Source: Arkansas Geological Survey
2005, Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS)
This report contains information relating to potable water within the Cave City graben area of study. It was conceived to test whether existing water well data coupled with basic geology could be used to illuminate yield patterns that might be useful in predicting potential production of new wells...
Cover image for TIS-16 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
1989, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Big Spring basin is a 103 square mile groundwater basin located in Clayton County, in northeastern Iowa. The groundwater basin has been defined through extensive hydrological investigations of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Bureau (DNR-GSB) and cooperating agencies...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply. Many in that number get their water from a private well. If you are a water well system owner—or are thinking about getting a system for your family’s drinking water needs—it is important that you have a...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3010 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey is developing approaches for the quantitative assessment of water and proppant involved with possible future production of continuous petroleum deposits. The assessment approach is an extension of existing U.S. Geological Survey petroleum-assessment methods, and it aims...
Cover of OFR2016-1111; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
A detailed inventory of irrigated crop acreage is not available at the level of resolution needed to accurately estimate agricultural water use or to project future water demands in many Florida counties. A detailed digital map and summary of irrigated acreage during the 2015 growing season was...
Cover image of position paper; Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
The National Ground Water Association supports the administration and proper enforcement by states of a specialized licensing program for drillers supervising the installation of monitoring wells. NGWA recognizes the specific expertise needed to install monitoring wells and the fact that production...
Cover of GS21-a01 ; Source: Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey
2013, Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey (WGNHS)
Wisconsin’s extensive spring resources make ecological, cultural, and economic contributions to the state’s livelihood. Formal documentation of the variety and distribution of springs began as early as the mid-1800s; however, their abundance challenges resource managers to adequately characterize...
Cover of AR 14-02-06 ; Source: Maryland Geological Survey
2015, Maryland Geological Survey (MGS)
The Maryland Port Administration is examining the possibility of raising the dikes at the Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility and expanding onto adjacent upland areas. The site, located in northern Anne Arundel County, Maryland, lies in the outcrop area of the Patapsco confining unit,...
Cover image for WRI-14; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2015, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
Due to the recurrence of drought in western Iowa, water users have increasingly been looking for additional sources of water. Buried sand and gravel aquifers associated with three bedrock channels were investigated as potential sources. Due to low data density, two primary study areas were chosen...