Groundwater Supply: Is It Sustainable?

News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

For release:  August 14, 2008
Contact: William Alley, 619-225-6125,
          Jennifer LaVista, 703-648-4432,

Strategy to Assess the Nation’s Ground-Water Availability

Declines in ground-water levels have led to
concerns about the future availability of ground
water, which provides half the country’s drinking
water, and is essential to the vitality of
agriculture and industry, as well as to the
health of rivers, wetlands, and estuaries
throughout the country.

The report, “Ground-Water Availability in the
United States” examines what is known about the
Nation’s ground-water availability and outlines a
strategy for future national and regional studies
that would provide information to help state and
local agencies make informed water-availability
decisions. View the report on-line at

“An assessment of ground-water availability is
critical for state and local agencies to make
decisions about important issues such as drinking
water, industrial and energy production, and
agricultural uses,” says William Alley, USGS
Office of Ground Water Chief.

The approach outlined in the report is designed
to provide useful regional information for State
and local agencies who manage ground-water
resources, while providing the building blocks
for a national assessment. The report places the
regional studies by the USGS Ground-Water
Resources Program as a long-term effort to
understand ground-water availability in major
aquifers across the Nation. The report contains
information about 30 regional principal aquifers
and five case studies to illustrate the diversity
of water-availability issues. The report is
written for a wide audience interested or
involved in the management, protection, and
sustainable use of the Nation’s water resources.

Ground water, a hidden resource found below the
surface of the Earth, is among the Nation’s most
important natural resources. Extensive use of
ground-water resources and other effects of
pumping has led to concerns about the future
availability of ground water to meet domestic,
agricultural, industrial, and environmental needs.

Determining ground-water availability is a
complex process. Issues affecting ground-water
vary from location to location and commonly
require analysis in the context of ground-water
flow systems to achieve a meaningful perspective.
Even if water resources are abundant regionally,
heavy water use in centralized areas can create
local stresses. As water-related problems evolve
in complex ways, an up-to-date and comprehensive
evaluation of ground-water resources that builds
on the foundation of previous studies is needed
to meet society’s ever-changing water demands.

This report is an outgrowth of a pilot study,
National Assessment of Water Avail°©ability and
Use, that began in 2005 at the request of
Congress. The report also builds on regional
ground-water availability studies recently
undertaken as part of the USGS Ground-Water
Resources Program. The approach to national
ground-water assessment is a key element of the
water census of the United States, which has been
proposed as part of the proposed Federal science
strategy to meet nationwide water chal°©lenges by
the National Science and Technology Council
Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality.

USGS provides science for a changing world. For
more information, visit

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Jennifer LaVista
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communications


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