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USGS Groundwater Information

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USGS Groundwater Watch

USGS maintains a network of active wells to provide basic statistics about groundwater levels.

 [Image: USGS active water level wells location map.]

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USGS Groundwater Information > About

USGS Groundwater Science for a Changing World

The U.S. Geological Survey provides unbiased, timely, and relevant information and studies about groundwater resources as part of the USGS Water Science Strategy to observe, understand, predict, and deliver water science to the Nation. The USGS conducts science to improve our understanding of how groundwater moves through the subsurface and what human and natural factors affect the quantity and quality of that groundwater.

[ USGS Active Groundwater Level Network wells have been measured at least once within the past 13 months ]

USGS Active Groundwater Level Network wells have been measured at least once within the past 13 months. See USGS Groundwater Watch for more information.

USGS scientists observe and monitor groundwater conditions at locations across the United States. Using data collected by USGS and cooperating agencies along with software and other tools developed by USGS scientists, USGS forecasts long- and short-term changes to groundwater conditions as part of local and regional groundwater studies.

USGS scientists collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to share resources, ideas, data, and information. Through these collaborations and communication with stakeholders, USGS identifies high-priority or emerging groundwater concerns and associated science and data gaps.

We deliver the results of our observations, improved understanding, and forecasts through USGS reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, online databases, presentations at scientific meetings, and our web sites. These USGS tools, information, and data are used every day by water-resource managers, regulators, policy makers, well operators, and others to make decisions about how best to protect and manage our groundwater to meet current and future needs.

USGS is a science agency and is not responsible for management or regulation of water resources.

Highlights of USGS Ongoing or Recent USGS Groundwater Activities

 [USGS groundwater scientists install sampling probe.]  [USGS scientist removes packer from well.]  [USGS personnel operate a drill rig.]  [USGS scientist measures the groundwater level.]  [USGS scientist records the location of a well.]  [USGS groundwater well. Black box houses equipment that transmits real-time continuous water-level data by satellite.]

135 Years of Science for the Nation

On March 3, 1879, the 45th Congress and President Hayes agreed to promote governmental economy and efficiency by forming a single, united U.S. Geological Survey. They made the new organization responsible for the scientific "classification of the public lands and examination of the Geological Structure, mineral resources and products of the national domain." Although many people associate the early Geological Survey only with mapping and mining of the West, the USGS was studying groundwater as early as the 1890s!

Why is groundwater important?

Groundwater is one of the Nation's most valuable natural resources. It occurs almost everywhere beneath the Earth's surface and is a major source of water supply worldwide. It is the Nation's principal reserve of freshwater and represents much of the potential future water supply. Groundwater is a major contributor to flow in many streams and has a strong influence on river and wetland habitats for plants and animals.

  • 25% of global fresh water is estimated to be stored as groundwater. (1)
  • 42% of US irrigation withdrawals came from groundwater in 2005. (2)
  • 33% of US public-supply withdrawals came from groundwater in 2005. (3)
  • The US pumped an estimated 79.6 billion gallons of fresh groundwater a day in 2005. (4)
  • 98% of the US population providing their own household water obtained their supplies from groundwater sources in 2005. (4)
  • On average, greater than 50% of streamflow may be contributed by groundwater. In some cases, groundwater contribution to streamflow may be as high as 90%. (5)
  • Groundwater also is a major source of water to lakes and wetlands. (5)

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Groundwater spring in a valley wall, where groundwater flowing through fractures in the bedrock is discharging at a sandstone outcrop along a road. Location: Appalachian Plateaus Groundwater Availability Study Area. Photo: USGS/Mark Kozar.

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Flowing well, where the groundwater pressure is high enough that the water naturally flows up, out of the well onto the land surface. Location: Appalachian Plateaus Groundwater Availability Study Area. Photo: USGS/Brandon Fleming.


(1) USGS Circular 1186: Sustainability of ground-water resources (p. 7)

(2) USGS Circular 1344: Estimated Water Use in the U.S. in 2005 (p.43)

(3) USGS Circular 1344: Estimated Water Use in the U.S. in 2005 (pp.16-17)

(4) USGS Circular 1344: Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005 (p. 1; 19)

(5) USGS Circular 1139 Ground Water and Surface Water -- A Single Resource (p. 12); USGS Circular 1186: Sustainability of ground-water resources (p. 7)


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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 28-Dec-2016 01:33:21 EST