Water Availability

PDF versionPDF version

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

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...

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...

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-...

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.

The course presenters are Ken...

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...

Research Database Publications

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 of OFR03-54 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2003, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The High Plains aquifer is the most intensely pumped aquifer in the United States, yielding about 30 percent of the nation's ground water used for irrigation. The region accounts for about 19 percent of total U.S. production of wheat and of cotton, 15 percent of our corn, and 3 percent of our...
Cover of GW11 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
1990, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
A detailed but simple hydrologic budget for the entire Rattlesnake watershed (1,455 mi2) in south-central Kansas was developed. With this budget, using minimal daily-weather input data and the soil-plant-water system-analysis methodology, we were able to characterize the spatial distribution of the...
Cover of FS19; Source: Maryland Geological Survey
2013, Maryland Geological Survey (MGS)
Ground water is the primary source of drinking water for most residents in the rural areas of Maryland. Ground water occurs in a variety of hydrogeologic settings, reflecting the geological diversity of the State. This fact sheet describes ground water and wells in the Piedmont physiographic...
Cover of fs2016-3083 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Information concerning the availability, use, and quality of water in Washington Parish, Louisiana, is critical for proper water-resource 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 for ES05; Source: Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey
2010, Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey (WGNHS)
In an average year, the county receives about 35 inches of rain and snow. Of that, about 11 inches reaches the water table. In a very wet year, when as much as 49 inches of precipitation may fall in the county, the estimated average recharge rate is about 15 inches per year. During very dry years,...
Cover of MBMG 652 ; Source: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG)
2014, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG)
A numerical groundwater flow model was developed for the Four Corners Groundwater Investigation. The model files are included with this report and are available online at the project website, http://www.mbmg.mtech.edu/gwip/gwip.asp. The primary purpose of the model was to evaluate the effects of...
Cover image of factsheet; Image credit: Geological Society of London
2017, The Geological Society of London (GSL)
Supplying drinking water to every tap in the UK is a huge challenge. Water hidden underground, or groundwater, is a vital part of this process in many regions, but can also cause flooding. Find out more in our fact sheet.
Cover of UR-83 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1997, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
During the summer of 1982, the South Dakota Geological Survey conducted a study for the city of Garretson, South Dakota. The purpose of this investigation was to determine potential sources of ground water within a radius of approximately 5 miles from the city, excluding the land in Minnesota....
Cover of B61; Source: Florida Geological Survey
1990, Florida Geological Survey (FGS)
The purpose of this study was to conduct a detailed geologic investigation of Madison County in order to provide information in the form of basic data and its interpretation to governmental agencies and the private sector concerning the county's stratigraphy, mineral resources, ground water, and...