The U.S. Geological Survey is near the midpoint of a complex undertaking to survey the quality of the nation’s largest drinking-water resource. From 2012 – 2023, the USGS is assessing groundwater throughout the country through extensive sampling. The latest results from five regional aquifers have become available today.
About half of the nation’s population relies on groundwater for drinking water. As the nation’s population grows, the need for high-quality drinking-water supplies becomes even more urgent.
The USGS has identified 68 principal aquifers, or regionally extensive aquifers that can be used as a source of drinking water, across the nation. Groundwater pumped from these aquifers provides nearly 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water. Twenty of these principal aquifers account for about 75 percent of the nation’s groundwater pumped for public supply and 85 percent of the groundwater pumped for domestic supply. These 20 principal aquifers are being intensively evaluated by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Project between 2012 and 2023. Summary results for five principal aquifers are recently completed and now available online.
“The National Water-Quality Assessment Project is critical in helping resource managers understand how contaminants are introduced into the environment. This knowledge helps them make informed decisions about how to manage the nation’s water resources,” said Don Cline, USGS Associate Director for Water. “Understanding the quality of our water is critical in sustaining this resource for generations to come.”
A Deep Look at an Unseen Resource
USGS scientists are assessing water quality in source (untreated) water from wells in principal aquifers. Most consumers receive water that has been treated by local utilities to meet federal drinking-water standards. Understanding what constituents are in untreated water can help decision makers manage and treat water resources.
This comprehensive sampling, carried out over principal aquifers across the country, is focused on public-supply wells that tap deeper groundwater. Along with detailed information on geology, hydrology, geochemistry and chemical and water use, this data can be used to explain how and why aquifer vulnerability to contamination varies across the nation.
These regional aquifer studies provide water utilities and resource managers with information about:
New Regional Aquifer Studies
In-depth, regional-scale assessments conducted or planned for 2012 through 2023 focus on 20 of the most heavily used aquifers in the nation. Groundwater quality results for principal aquifers sampled in 2012 and 2013 are available today and summarized in the fact sheets below. Almost 400 deep public-supply wells were sampled within these aquifers, which were analyzed for a broad range of water-quality constituents.
Over the next few years, results will be released for additional principal aquifers that are important sources of drinking water for the nation as the National Water-Quality Assessment Project continues to address three central questions:
National Water-Quality Assessment Project
USGS Groundwater Information
USGS Fact Sheet, NAWQA Groundwater Studies: Principal Aquifer Surveys
USGS Data Series, Groundwater quality data from the National Water-Quality Assessment Project, May 2012 through December 2013
Technical announcements for five aquifers studied:
Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers (western U.S.)
Valley and Ridge carbonate-rock aquifers and the Piedmont and Blue Ridge carbonate-rock aquifers (eastern U.S.)
Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain aquifer system (east coast of U.S.)
Southeastern Coastal Plain aquifer system (southeastern U.S.)
Coastal Lowlands aquifer system (south central U.S.)
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192