Water

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

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...
Irrigation equipment. (Background: Copyright Shutterstock.com/Sergey Nivens; right: Copyright Shutterstock.com/Cecilia Lim H M)
(2016-10-28)
The 2016 Critical Issues Forum, Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer concluded today at the Colorado School of Mines Ben H. Parker Student Center. An initial summary of social media posts using #CIForum16 were compiled connecting people to...
AGI Forum 2016 Groundwater Issues
(2016-10-21)
There is still time to register for this event! The 2016 Critical Issues Forum, Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer, will be held October 27-28 in Golden, Colorado. If you are a current student or belong to an AGI member society, you will...
Interactive map of water wells in Nebraska. Image Credit: Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
(2016-10-14)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of water wells in Nebraska from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (@NebraskaDNR), which you can find at bit.ly/22dbeyi. For more information on groundwater issues in the High Plains, consider...

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 - 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...

Research Database Publications

Cover of fs2016-3009; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a long history of working with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and State transportation agencies to provide data and information to address various issues related to water resources and the Nation’s transportation infrastructure. These issues include...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3001 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Groundwater provides more than 40 percent of California’s drinking water. To protect this vital resource, the State of California created the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The Priority Basin Project of the GAMA Program provides a comprehensive assessment of the State...
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 factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Practicing water efficiency is key to keeping a private water system running smoothly. Groundwater is replenished by rainfall—and melted snow in applicable areas—and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Being informed about your well and the groundwater that it uses is the first step toward always...
Cover of RI79 ; Image credit: Delaware Geological Survey
2015, Delaware Geological Survey (DGS)
This report presents a conceptual model of groundwater flow and the effects of nitrate (NO3-) loading and transort on shallow groundwater quality in a portion of the Indian River watershed, eastern Sussex County, Delaware. Three-dimensional, numerical simulations of groundwater flow, particle...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
A safe water supply at your home is obviously vital. Homes not served by public water systems most commonly receive their water from private water wells. A water well is not overly expensive, especially considering how devalued a home is on resale if it doesn’t have a viable water supply. This is...
Cover of fs2016-3061; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey began collecting streamflow data, in cooperation with the North Dakota State Water Commission, on the Souris River in and near Minot, North Dakota, in April 1903. The gage was started up to better understand the water resources available in North Dakota. Currently (2016...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3045 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Edwards aquifer is the primary source of potable water for the San Antonio area in south-central Texas. The Knippa Gap area is a structural low (trough) postulated to channel or restrict flow in the Edwards aquifer in eastern Uvalde and western Medina Counties, Tex. To better understand the...
Cover image for USGS FS 2014-3118; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in St. Charles 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...
Cover of USGS_circ1247.pdf; Source: USGS
2003, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hydrologic stresses throughout the 20th century and presently (2003) have caused the depletion and degradation of our Nation’s vital ground-water resources in many areas. Management strategies have been and are being implemented to optimize use of our ground-water resources with respect to...