Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Classifying the water table at regional to continental scales

March 5, 2011

Water tables at regional to continental scales can be classified into two distinct types: recharge-controlled water tables that are largely disconnected from topography and topography-controlled water tables that are closely tied to topography. We use geomatic synthesis of hydrologic, geologic and topographic data sets to quantify and map water-table type over the contiguous United States using a dimensionless criterion introduced by Haitjema and Mitchell-Bruker (2005), called the water-table ratio, which differentiates water-table type. Our analysis indicates that specific regions of the United States have broadly contiguous and characteristic water-table types. Water-table ratio relates to water-table depth and the potential for regional groundwater flow. In regions with recharge-controlled water tables, for example the Southwest or Rocky Mountains, USA, water-tables depths are generally greater and more variable and regional groundwater flow is generally more important as a percentage of the watershed budget. Water-table depths are generally shallow and less variable, and regional groundwater flow is limited in areas with topography-controlled water tables such as the Northeast USA. The water-table ratio is a simple but powerful criterion for evaluating regional groundwater systems over broad areas.

Publication Year 2011
Title Classifying the water table at regional to continental scales
DOI 10.1029/2010GL046427
Authors Tom Gleeson, Lars Marklund, Leslie Smith, Andrew H. Manning
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Research Letters
Index ID 70003883
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center