(WESTERVILLE, OH — July 31, 2012) A congressional briefing led by the U.S. Geological Survey on Friday, July 27, 2012 spotlighted the importance of monitoring the nation’s groundwater quantity and quality.
Groundwater is often referred to as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind resource, yet 78 percent of community water systems, nearly all America’s private household wells, and 42 percent of agricultural irrigation water are supplied by groundwater.
There is no systematic nationwide monitoring of the nation’s groundwater levels or quality to assist in planning for and minimizing impacts from shortages or supply disruptions. This lack of systematic groundwater monitoring affects the country’s ability to address food, energy, economic, and drinking water security issues.
“If we think of an aquifer [groundwater] as a bank account holding a precious resource, aquifer assessments combined with water level measurements allow us to understand how much water is in our account [aquifer], and how our account balance is changing over time,” said briefing presenter Bill Cunningham, acting chief of the USGS Office of Groundwater.
“Water level measurements are the most basic element for knowing our account balance. Repeated measurements over a long time period can be used to produce a ‘hydrograph’ of these water levels over time,” he said.
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) echoed the need to monitor the nation’s groundwater resources.
“Every day, millions of Americans rely on groundwater sources for their drinking water, including nearly 80 percent of Minnesotans. The National Ground Water Monitoring Network is a critical resource,” she said. “Congress must continue to do everything possible to ensure our nation’s drinking water remains a safe and plentiful resource.”
In addition to Cunningham, briefing participants included:
In 2009, Congress authorized a national groundwater monitoring program. In 2010, six states tested concepts for the National Ground Water Monitoring Network. An expansion of this effort would provide consistent, comparable nationwide groundwater level and quality data through a Web portal for federal, state, local government, and private-sector users.
NGWA, a nonprofit organization composed of U.S. and international groundwater professionals — contractors, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, and engineers — is dedicated to advancing groundwater knowledge. NGWA’s vision is to be the leading groundwater association that advocates the responsible development, management, and use of water.
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