Mission Areas

Water Availability and Use Science Program

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Program goals: provide a more accurate assessment of the status of the water resources of the U.S., assist in the determination of the quantity and quality of water that is available for beneficial uses, identify long-term trends in water availability, and develop the basis for an improved ability to forecast the availability of water for economic, energy production, and environmental uses.

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Water Availability in the United States

Water Availability in the United States

The Water Availability and Use Science Program (WAUSP) fulfills the Water Resources Mission Area's objectives to provide comprehensive water availability and use science to the Nation.

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News

High Plains aquifer water-level changes, predevelopment to 2015
June 16, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new report detailing changes of groundwater levels in the High Plains aquifer. The report presents water-level change data in the aquifer for two separate periods: from 1950 – the time prior to significant groundwater irrigation development – to 2015, and from 2013 to 2015.

Image: Streamflow changes along upper Peace River, Fl
April 5, 2017

New USGS assessment provides fresh insights into nation’s brackish groundwater inventory

USGS: Science for a changing world
March 8, 2017

In order to provide long-term storage of diverted surface water from the Rio Grande as part of the Aamodt water rights settlement, managed aquifer recharge by surface infiltration in Pojoaque River Basin arroyos was proposed as an option.

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Map of the extent of glacial deposits in the U.S. from Laurentide and Cordilleran
October 4, 2016

The Glacial Aquifer System Groundwater Availability Study began in 2012 and will be completed in 2016. The glacial aquifer system groundwater availability study is one of the USGS efforts in response to the Department of Interior WaterSMART initiative. This study is designed to provide information and analysis to stakeholders and decisionmakers for characterizing groundwater availability...

Girls getting a glass of water at a well pump at The Tollgate House, Meridian Historical Village, Okemos, MI
September 22, 2016

The USGS compiles water use information by State including estimated amounts, sources, and categories of use every five years since 1950. Sources include surface water and groundwater, both fresh and saline. Categories include public supply, domestic, livestock, industrial, irrigation, and thermoelectric power. These data provide a source of information about regional and national trends in...

Erosion along the Rio Puerco during the flood of 2006 following herbicide application to control saltcedar in 2003.
August 1, 2016

Formation of arroyos in the late 1800s greatly increased erosion across the southwestern United States. Since the 1930s, however, this erosion has decreased, partly because of bank stabilization by introduced saltcedar. With Isleta Pueblo Indian Nation, the Aquatic Systems Branch developed a new sediment dating method using saltcedar tree rings. We applied the method in a landmark study of...

Image: Research on the Columbia River
April 7, 2016

The USGS National Research Program (NRP), part of the USGS Water Mission Area, conducts research to develop and disseminate science-based information and tools needed for a fundamental understanding of the processes that affect the availability, movement, and quality of the Nation’s water resources. Our science supports a wide range of policies and activities.

Image: Water Monitoring Field Work at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge
April 7, 2016

Cooperative matching funds bring local, State, and Tribal water science needs and decision-making together with USGS national capabilities related to USGS nationally consistent methods and quality assurance; innovative monitoring technology, models, and analysis tools; and robust data management and delivery systems.

Image: How Much Water is Available?
April 7, 2016

The National Water Census is a USGS research program on national water availability and use that develops new water accounting tools and assesses water availability at the regional and national scales. Through the Water Census, USGS is integrating diverse research on water availability and use and enhancing the understanding of connection between water quality and water availability.

Artesian well used for irrigation, Rapid City, South Dakota (January 1956).
April 7, 2016

Regional Groundwater Assessments provide objective scientific information and develop the interdisciplinary understanding necessary to assess and quantify the availability of the Nation's groundwater resources....

Photo of a center-pivot agricultural irrigation system.
April 7, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey's Water Use Science program is responsible for compiling and disseminating the nation's water-use data. USGS produces water-use information aggregated at the county, state, and national levels.

Historic water tower in Chicago.
March 15, 2016

The Water-Use Open Forum allows those involved in water-use data collection, data management, and regulation to communicate about challenges and solutions to water-use data issues, such as data collection, storage, QA/QC, analysis and data dissemination.

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 Logo-Water Census Data Portal
April 18, 2016

National Water Census - Data Portal

At the National Water Census Data Portal you will find national estimates of water budget components for local watersheds, water withdrawal data for counties, tools to calculate statistics of daily streamflow records, modeled daily streamflow at ungaged stations, and access to records of aquatic biology observations.

Map of irrigation water use by county for 2010
March 15, 2016

Water-use data available from USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey compiles water-use estimates every five years for each State, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Archived datasets underlying the published "Estimated Use of Water in the United States" reports are available. Data incorporating any revisions can be found on NWISWeb.

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Year Published: 2016

Hydrogeology and hydrologic conditions of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system

The hydrogeology and hydrologic characteristics of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system were characterized as part of ongoing U.S. Geological Survey efforts to assess groundwater availability across the Nation. The need for such a study in the Ozark Plateaus physiographic province (Ozark Plateaus) is highlighted by increasing demand on groundwater...

Hays, Phillip D.; Knierim, Katherine J.; Breaker, Brian K.; Westerman, Drew A.; Clark, Brian R.
Hays, P.D., Knierim, K.J., Breaker, Brian, Westerman, D.A., and Clark, B.R., 2016, Hydrogeology and hydrologic conditions of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5137, 61 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165137.

Year Published: 2016

Altitudes and thicknesses of hydrogeologic units of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

A hydrogeologic framework was constructed to represent the altitudes and thicknesses of hydrogeologic units within the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system as part of a regional groundwater-flow model supported by the U.S. Geological Survey Water Availability and Use Science Program. The Ozark Plateaus aquifer system study area is nearly 70,000 square...

Westerman, Drew A.; Gillip, Jonathan A.; Richards, Joseph M.; Hays, Phillip D.; Clark, Brian R.
Westerman, D.A., Gillip, J.A., Richards, J.M., Hays, P.D., Clark, B.R., 2016, Altitudes and thicknesses of hydrogeologic units of the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5130, 32 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165130.

Year Published: 2016

Water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, 2010, and water-use trends, 1985-2010

The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin encompasses about 20,230 square miles in parts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Increasing population growth and agricultural production from the 1970s to 2010 has prompted increases in water-resources development and substantially increased water demand in the basin. Since the 1980s, Alabama...

Lawrence, Stephen J.
Lawrence, S.J., 2016, Water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, 2010, and water-use trends, 1985–2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5007, 72 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165007.

Year Published: 2016

Evaluating Landsat 8 evapotranspiration for water use mapping in the Colorado River Basin

Evapotranspiration (ET) mapping at the Landsat spatial resolution (100 m) is essential to fully understand water use and water availability at the field scale. Water use estimates in the Colorado River Basin (CRB), which has diverse ecosystems and complex hydro-climatic regions, will be helpful to water planners and managers. Availability of...

Senay, Gabriel; Friedrichs, MacKenzie O.; Singh, Ramesh K.; Velpuri, Naga Manohar

Year Published: 2016

Chemical considerations for an updated National assessment of brackish groundwater resources

Brackish groundwater (BGW) is increasingly used for water supplies where fresh water is scarce, but the distribution and availability of such resources have not been characterized at the national scale in the United States since the 1960s. Apart from its distribution and accessibility, BGW usability is a function of the chemical requirements of...

McMahon, Peter B.; Böhlke, John Karl; Dahm, Katharine; Parkhurst, David L.; Anning, David W.; Stanton, Jennifer S.
McMahon, P.B., Böhlke, J.K., Dahm, K.G., Parkhurst, D.L., Anning, D.W. and Stanton, J.S., 2016, Chemical considerations for an updated National assessment of brackish groundwater resources: Groundwater, Issue Paper, 12 p., doi:10.1111/gwat.12367

Year Published: 2016

Geophysical log database for the Floridan aquifer system and southeastern Coastal Plain aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina

A database of borehole geophysical logs and other types of data files were compiled as part of ongoing studies of water availability and assessment of brackish- and saline-water resources. The database contains 4,883 logs from 1,248 wells in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and from a limited number of offshore wells of the eastern Gulf...

Williams, Lester J.; Raines, Jessica E.; Lanning, Amanda E.
Williams, L.J., Raines, J.E., and Lanning, A.E., 2016, Geophysical log database for the Floridan aquifer system and southeastern Coastal Plain aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina (ver. 1.1, December 2016): U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 760, 12 p., available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/760/.

Year Published: 2015

Summary of hydrologic modeling for the Delaware River Basin using the Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (WATER)

The Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (WATER) is a decision support system for the nontidal part of the Delaware River Basin that provides a consistent and objective method of simulating streamflow under historical, forecasted, and managed conditions. In order to quantify the uncertainty associated with these simulations, however...

Williamson, Tanja N.; Lant, Jeremiah G.; Claggett, Peter; Nystrom, Elizabeth A.; Milly, Paul C.D.; Nelson, Hugh L.; Hoffman, Scott A.; Colarullo, Susan J.; Fischer, Jeffrey M.
Williamson, T.N., Lant, J.G., Claggett, P.R., Nystrom, E.A., Milly, P.C.D., Nelson, H.L., Hoffman, S.A., Colarullo, S.J., and Fischer, J.M., 2015, Summary of hydrologic modeling for the Delaware River Basin using the Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (WATER): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5143, 68 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155143.

Year Published: 2015

User manuals for the Delaware River Basin Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (DRB–WATER) and associated WATER application utilities

The Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (WATER) is a decision support system (DSS) for the nontidal part of the Delaware River Basin (DRB) that provides a consistent and objective method of simulating streamflow under historical, forecasted, and managed conditions. WATER integrates geospatial sampling of landscape characteristics,...

Williamson, Tanja N.; Lant, Jeremiah G.
Williamson, T.N., and Lant, J.G., 2015, User manuals for the Delaware River Basin Water Availability Tool for Environmental Resources (DRB–WATER) and associated WATER application utilities: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1196, 32 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151196.

Year Published: 2015

Progress toward a National Water Census

Increasing demand and competition for limited regional water resources make it difficult to ensure adequate water availability for both human and ecological needs now and into the future. Recognizing the need to improve the tools and information that are available to effectively evaluate water-resource availability, the U.S. Geological Survey (...

Jones, Sonya A.
Jones, Sonya, 2015, Progress Toward a National Water Census: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015–3045, 2 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20153045. ISSN 2327-6932 (online)

Year Published: 2015

Digital surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina

Digital surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system were developed to define an updated hydrogeologic framework as part of the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Resources Program. The dataset contains structural surfaces depicting the top and base of the aquifer system, its major and minor hydrogeologic...

Williams, Lester J.; Dixon, Joann F.
Williams, L.J. and Dixon, J.F., 2015, Digital Surfaces and Thicknesses of Selected Hydrogeologic Units of the Floridan Aquifer System in Florida and Parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series Report 926, xx p.

Year Published: 2015

Revised hydrogeologic framework of the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina

The hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system has been revised throughout its extent in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. The updated framework generally conforms to the original framework established by the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1980s, except for adjustments made to the internal boundaries of the...

Williams, Lester J.; Kuniansky, Eve L.
Williams, L.J., and Kuniansky, E.L., 2016, Revised hydrogeologic framework of the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina (ver. 1.1, March 2016): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1807, 140 p., 23 pls., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1807.

Year Published: 2014

Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010

Water use in the United States in 2010 was estimated to be about 355 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), which was 13 percent less than in 2005. The 2010 estimates put total withdrawals at the lowest level since before 1970. Freshwater withdrawals were 306 Bgal/d, or 86 percent of total withdrawals, and saline-water withdrawals were 48.3 Bgal/d, or...

Maupin, Molly A.; Kenny, Joan F.; Hutson, Susan S.; Lovelace, John K.; Barber, Nancy L.; Linsey, Kristin S.
Maupin, M.A., Kenny, J.F., Hutson, S.S., Lovelace, J.K., Barber, N.L., and Linsey, K.S., 2014, Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1405, 56 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/cir1405.

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Water Use Site Retrieval Page Icon
July 4, 2016

In 1977, the Congress of the United States recognized the need for uniform, current, and reliable information on water use and directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a National Water-Use Information Program (NWUIP) to complement the Survey's data on the availability and quality of the Nations water resources.

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2017 (approx.)

The Arizona Water Science Center details the history and development of the Continuous Slope-Area Method. Learn about the people and events that began these new advances in the field of stream gaging. 

Music Artist: Glenn Jones, “Bergen County Farewell”. CC License. Music provided by www.FreeMusicArchive.com

Scientist standing in streamgaging platform hanging over a river.
March 23, 2017

USGS Hydrologic Technician Kim Cesal measuring 3170 cfs at 12409000 Colville River at Kettle Falls, WA. This measurement is the highest made at the gaging site. The gage has been in operation since October 1922. The gage was installed to monitor flows from Meyer Falls Dam and Power Generation.

2016 (approx.)

This video will provide a brief history and purpose for one of the oldest streamgages in Indiana. The gage is at the Wabash River at Lafayette, Indiana. The site number is 03335500. This video was produced at the request of the West Lafayette Parks Department where this historic gage is located. A QR code is displayed on an interpretive plaque next to the gage which is located in a high profile location within a city park adjacent to Purdue University. Park visitors can view a brief video on their smart phone which will educate them on the history of the gage and provide them with information on how to obtain current readings. The USGS WaterAlert text or email notifications is also featured. Our goal is to better educate the public on the importance of USGS streamgages in Indiana and the data we provide to the nation.

Some material in this video is copyrighted and for use by USGS only. Contact Producer for details.

December 1, 2016

The new Great Salt Lake breach was opened on Dec. 1 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. This created a new opening between the north and the south arm of the lake, allowing water to flow between the two sides. This time-lapse video shows the breach opening, which took about two hours. Before the new breach was opened, the north arm of the Great Salt Lake was at an historic low. Water had stopped flowing through the old Great Salt Lake causeway breach, preventing water to travel between the southern and northern portions. Water levels in the south arm were approximately 3.3 feet higher than the north arm when the breach was opened. The USGS will begin to monitor discharge through the new breech in cooperation with Utah Department of Environmental Quality. The USGS provides real-time lake elevation readings for both the north arm (Great Salt Lake near Saline, UT) and south arm (Great Salt Lake at Saltair Boat Marina, UT) of the Great Salt Lake. These gauging stations will be a valuable resource to observe the water level changes as the two portions of the lake combine and even out. The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847 and has continuously measured the elevation of the lake since 1938. 
 

Photo of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah
2016 (approx.)

Water flowing on the Colorado River near Moab, Utah. 

The entire Colorado River Basin currently supports 50 million people, and that amount is expected to increase by 23 million between 2000 and 2030. A new USGS study shows more than half of the streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater. 

Thermoelectric power plant. A major user of water.
April 19, 2016

A thermoelectric power plant, showing the evaporation towers, which are used to cool off heated water used during power generation. The cooler water can then be reused or put back into the environment. Of course, a portion of the heated water is lost to evaporation.

Diagram of the Water Cycle
April 18, 2016

Diagram of the water cycle showing natural and human processes.

January 19, 2013

The Arizona Water Use program has complied vast research over the years to track water use and encourage sustainability in the state. The research gained and applied is very important to the economy development of the state of Arizona.

October 2, 2011

Highlights of the Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5166 which documents methods of irrigation and inventories irrigation data collected for the 2000 and 2005 U.S Geological Survey.

Photo of Steve Peterson making a stream discharge measurement.
November 15, 2006

USGS Nebraska Water Science Center Elkhorn-Loup Model project chief, Steve Peterson, making a stream discharge measurement. The project collected hundreds of discharge measurements in 2006 to determine base flow in the study area.

Historic water tower in Chicago.

The historic water tower in Chicago, IL, built in 1869 and now a museum.

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High Plains aquifer water-level changes, predevelopment to 2015
June 16, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new report detailing changes of groundwater levels in the High Plains aquifer. The report presents water-level change data in the aquifer for two separate periods: from 1950 – the time prior to significant groundwater irrigation development – to 2015, and from 2013 to 2015.

USGS: Science for a changing world
March 8, 2017

In order to provide long-term storage of diverted surface water from the Rio Grande as part of the Aamodt water rights settlement, managed aquifer recharge by surface infiltration in Pojoaque River Basin arroyos was proposed as an option.

USGS: Science for a changing world
February 13, 2017

Water-level changes from 2002 to 2015 were examined in wells screened in the High Plains aquifer within the Republican River Basin and the results are now available in a new U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map.

Map of Northern High Plains Aquifer
December 13, 2016

A new U.S. Geological Survey publication and model can be applied by multiple entities to better understand flow, quantity, sources and sinks of groundwater in the Northern High Plains Aquifer, which covers approximately 100,000 square miles across Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

USGS: Science for a changing world
September 26, 2016

Reporters: Do you want to accompany a USGS field crew as they measure flooding? Please contact Jason McVay at 319-430-6962.

Iowa
September 23, 2016

Reporters: Do you want to accompany a USGS field crew as they measure flooding? Please contact Jason McVay at 319-430-6962.

Reactivated USGS streamgage in Frankton, Indiana
August 23, 2016

A U.S. Geological Survey streamgage, dormant since 2003, was recently reactivated in the city of Frankton, Indiana through a funding partnership with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Total water withdrawals by State and bar chart
November 5, 2014

Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years. According to a new USGS report, about 355 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the entire United States during 2010.