Water Availability and Use Science Program

National Water Census

The USGS National Water Census (NWC) is designed to systematically provide information that will allow resource managers to assess the supply, use, and availability of the Nation’s water. The goal of the NWC is to provide nationally-consistent base layers of well-documented data that account for water availability and use nationally.

National Water Census Science

National Water Census Science

Dig into the science projects and publications of the National Water Census.

NWC Home Page

The Water Availability and Use Science Program (WAUSP) supports the NWC goal through work to understand and quantify the inputs, outputs, and changes in the water budget. The primary building blocks of the water budget are base layers of precipitation, streamflow, evapotranspiration (ET), water use, and change in groundwater storage. Measurements or estimates of water budget components provide a means for decision makers to evaluate the water available for human and ecological needs as well as where stresses to the budget exist or may develop. Ideally, the WAUSP seeks to provide estimates of selected water budget components that are compiled via the National Water Census at consistent spatial and temporal scales. Through development of advanced techniques and new accounting methods for the NWC components, the WAUSP strives to provide resource managers with more accurate and finer scale information to support near-real time, local management decisions related to water availability and use.

Highlights of recent (fiscal year 2018) accomplishments and planned (fiscal year 2019) activities:

  • In 2017, water-use data for the public supply and domestic categories of the 2015 Compilation were released. In 2018, the WAUSP will publish the complete report Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015.

  • In 2017 a conceptual model to quantify water use associated with the production of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) resources was developed for the Williston Basin. In 2018, work to test the conceptual model nationally will begin. In 2019, to fund higher Interior priorities, the USGS is not requesting funds for this project.

  • Focus Area Studies are stakeholder driven assessments of water availability in river basins with known or potential conflict. The three current Focus Area Studies (Red River, Coastal Carolinas, and Upper Rio Grande) are scheduled for completion in 2018. To fund higher Interior priorities, the USGS is not requesting funds in 2019 to initiate future studies.

  • In 2018, the USGS will work closely with the Bureau of Reclamation to develop a Web service that will allow resource managers and other users to discover and download the brackish groundwater data for their area of interest. In 2019, additional enhancements to this web service, such as geochemical modeling capabilities, have been identified for development.

  • In 2017, the NWC worked to better understand the role of drought on water availability by researching the role of atmospheric rivers (storms that transport most of the water vapor out of the tropics) on drought conditions in the West.

  • As one step towards understanding uncertainty in the water budget, USGS conducted an analysis of the degree to which different datasets for different water budget components agree. Results for precipitation, evapotranspiration, streamflow, and recharge will be published in 2018. The USGS also investigated and published a study on confidence intervals for statistically modeled streamflow. In 2018 and 2019, the USGS will explore methods for developing confidence intervals for additional water budget components.