Water Q&A: What water data does the USGS gather?

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The USGS collects data about the country's water resources including the quantity and quality of water in our streams, rivers, groundwater, and more.

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What water data does the USGS gather?

Water Questions and Answers

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collects data about the country's surface water, such as how much water is flowing in our streams and rivers, and when a river reaches "flood stage". Groundwater is studied—the amount of water stored in underground aquifers and how humans' usage of that water affects the amount available. We track the movement of contaminants from the land surface into and through aquifers and see if these contaminants are in water withdrawn from wells. A lot of work also goes into studying the quality and chemical makeup of our water resources. The USGS has water-quality laboratories where water samples are analyzed. Data about water availability and use is also compiled and studied by USGS.

To accomplish these tasks, the USGS has over 150 field offices where personnel are involved in the following activities:

  • Collecting water samples from groundwater and surface-water bodies
  • Making measurements of water properties, such as pH and temperature
  • Measuring stream flows and the amount of water in wells
  • Analyzing water samples in the field and in laboratories
  • Compiling data from many sources about how much water is used for different purposes
  • Writing reports about our water resources
  • Creating many computerized water data bases
  • Producing maps, reports, and Web sites to give the public and others information about our water resources
  • Keeping the U.S. Congress and the President informed about water-resource issues