Water Availability

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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.


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
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
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
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
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
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
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
#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
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
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
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


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....


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...


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...


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...


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...

GOLI Online Courses

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: 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.

Research Database Publications

Cover of fs2016-3100; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2017, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, is critical for proper water-resource management. This fact sheet summarizes the availability, past and current use, use trends, and water quality from groundwater and surface-water sources in the parish...
Cover of fs2016-3032 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Availability and Use Science Program (WAUSP) goals are to provide a more accurate assessment of the status of the water resources of the United States and assist in the determination of the quantity and quality of water that is available for beneficial uses...
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...
Cover image for WRI-10 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2014, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Iowa Geological Survey completed a hydrogeologic evaluation of the water resources in the Ocheyedan River aquifer in Osceola, O’Brien, Clay and Dickinson counties in Iowa. The work was funded under the Water Plan Program of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The primary objective of this...
Cover of OFR02-58 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2002, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
Quantification of available water and the rate of recharge to the High Plains aquifer in western Kansas are much discussed but little agreed upon topics. The usable lifetime of the aquifer is under investigation, but thus far studies have focused largely on the quantity of water and ignored the...
Cover of UR-46 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1988, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The Brookings-Deuel Rural Water System was in the process of expanding their system to accommodate water users in an area northeast of the City of Elkton. The South Dakota Geological Survey was asked to locate a source of good quality ground water in the vicinity of the proposed system. The main...
Cover of USGS_2015-1170; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
A detailed inventory of irrigated crop acreage is not available at the level of resolution needed to accurately estimate water use or to project future water demands in many Florida counties. This report provides a detailed digital map and summary of irrigated areas for 2014 within Jackson, Calhoun...
Cover of OFR03-16 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2003, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
A reliable source of water is essential to the well-being and livelihoods of people in the High Plains region where ground water is used for drinking water, ranching, farming, and other purposes. Many areas of the High Plains aquifer have experienced a dramatic depletion of this resource. Large-...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3029 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Edwards-Trinity aquifer, a major aquifer in the Pecos County region of western Texas, is a vital groundwater resource for agricultural, industrial, and public supply uses. Resource managers would like to better understand the future availability of water in the Edwards-Trinity aquifer in the...
Cover image for WRI-5 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2011, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
Recharge to most of the Silurian aquifer is through confining beds that include glacial till and various shale units. Due to the highly variable thickness and coverage of these confining units, the rate of recharge ranges from 10-4 inches per year over the southwestern half of the study area to 1.8...