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Ground-Water Depletion Across the Nation - page 4 / 4





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This earth fissure formed on Rogers Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in Janu- ary 1991, and forced the closure of one of the space shuttle’s alternative runways. The fis- sure has been attributed to land subsidence related to ground-water pumping in the Ante- lope Valley area (Galloway and others, 2003).

first flowing artesian well was drilled in 1907. These water-level declines have resulted in as much as 6 feet of subsidence since 1935, as well as having caused springs to dry up and artesian wells to stop flowing (Pavelko and others, 1999).

In Antelope Valley, on the western edge of the Mojave Desert in southern California, water-level declines have exceeded 300 feet in some areas since the early 1900s. As a result, measured land subsidence exceeded 6 feet locally


Alley, W.M., Reilly, T.E., and Franke, O.L., 1999, Sustainability of ground-water resources: U.S. Geo- logical Survey Circular 1186, 79 p.

Barlow, P.M., 2003, Ground water in freshwater- saltwater environments of the Atlantic coast: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1262.

Burns, A.W., 1997, Sidebar 2-2—Ground-water resources in the western United States—Sustainability and trends, in Western Water Policy Review Council, Water for the West—The challenge for the next cen- tury, Public Review Draft, October 1997, p. 2.10-2.16.

Galloway, D.L., Jones, D.R., and Ingebritsen, S.E., eds., 1999, Land subsidence in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1182, 177 p.

Galloway, D.L., Alley, W.M., Barlow, P.M., Reilly, T.E., and Tucci, Patrick, 2003, Evolving issues and practices in managing ground-water resources: Case studies on the role of science: U.S. Geological Sur- vey Circular 1247, 73 p.

Grannemann, N.G., Hunt, R.J., Nicholas, J.R., Reilly, T.E., and Winter, T.C., 2000, The importance of ground water in the Great Lakes region: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4008, 14 p.

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between 1930-92. The land surface is continuing to subside, resulting in damage to roads, buildings, and other structures (Galloway and others, 2003).

What information do we need to monitor the Nation’s ground- water depletion and its effects?

About 140 million residents (about 50 percent of the population) in all 50 States depend on ground water for their direct needs. Ground water pro- vides about 40 percent of the Nation’s public-water supply and much of the water used for irrigation. This reli- ance on ground water necessitates long-term monitoring of ground-water levels to track ground-water depletion.

areas at 5- to 10-year intervals. Such changes could be documented for major aquifers and then compiled into regional and national assessments. A major task at the beginning of such an assessment would be the analysis of ground-water withdrawals and changes in storage that occurred dur- ing the 20th century (U.S. Geological Survey, 2002).

In order to preserve and optimize the use of our critical ground-water resources, science can provide the information necessary to make informed choices on issues that have long-term environmental and ecologi- cal effects. For many aquifers in the United States, the basic data needed

Though water-level monitoring takes place for many aquifer systems within individual States, coordinated water-

for such assessments are not available, and hence our knowledge of the water budget for them is limited. In about

level monitoring

1950, in Albu-

generally has not been done for aqui- fers that cross State

Data on ground-water levels and rates of change are “not adequate for national reporting.”

boundaries (the High Plains aquifer is an exception). No comprehensive

The State of the Nations Ecosystems H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and Environment, 2002

querque, New Mexico, several supply wells were

pumped dry, lead- ing C.V. Theis, one of the major scientists in the

national ground-water-level network exists with uniform coverage of major aquifers, climate zones, or land uses.

Long-term ground-water-level data from individual wells provide the information needed to moni- tor ground-water depletion locally. Periodic assessments of changes in ground-water storage could be made by measuring more wells over larger

field of hydrogeology, to comment, “What happened was that the city got a notice from its bank that its account was overdrawn and when it com- plained that no one could have fore- seen this, only said in effect that it had no bookkeeping system” (Theis, 1953).

  • J.R. Bartolino and W.L. Cunningham

H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, 2002, The State of the Nation’s ecosystems--Measuring the Lands, waters, and liv- ing resources of the United States: Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 151 p.

Leake, S.A., Konieczki, A.D., and Rees, J.A.H., 2000, Desert basins of the Southwest: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 086-00, 4 p.

McGuire, V.L., Johnson, M.R., Schieffer, R.L., Stan- ton, J.S., Sebree, S.K., and Verstraeten, I.M., 2003, Water in storage and approaches to ground-water management, High Plains Aquifer, 2000: U.S. Geo- logical Survey Circular 1243, 51 p.

Pavelko, M.T., Wood, D.B., and Laczniak, R.J., 1999, Las Vegas, Nevada, in Galloway, D.L., Jones, D.R., and Ingebritsen, S.E., eds., Land subsidence in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1182, p. 49-64.

Taylor, C.J., and Alley, W.M., 2001, Ground-water- level monitoring and the importance of long-term water-level data: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1217, 68 p.

Theis, C.V., 1953, Outline of ground-water condi- tions at Albuquerque—Talk given to Chamber of

Commerce, in Theis, C.V., and others, 1991, Short papers on water resources in New Mexico, 1937-57:

    • U.

      S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 91-81, 77 p.

  • U.

    S. Geological Survey, 2002, Concepts for national assessment of water availability and use: U.S. Geo- logical Survey Circular 1223, 34 p.

Williamson, A.K., and Grubb, H.F., 2001, Ground- water flow in the Gulf Coast aquifer systems, south-central United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1416-F, p. F1-F173, plates 1 and 7 in pocket.

For more information on ground-water-resource issues, please contact:

Chief, Office of Ground Water U.S. Geological Survey 411 National Center 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive Reston, VA 20192 (703) 648-5001


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