| This article originated from the Critical Issues Program authored by the American Geosciences Institute.
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Fresh water is available as surface water (such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs) and groundwater (found underground in rock or soil layers, and accessed through wells or natural springs). Water is constantly moving on the Earth between the atmosphere, ocean, and different fresh water bodies. Climate, land use, local geology, and water quality all affect the availability of fresh water resources in addition to the direct demands people place on them.
Why does water availability matter?
Water is vital for agriculture, human consumption, industry, and energy generation. If local surface water and groundwater are used up or contaminated beyond use, it becomes necessary to turn to alternative, often more expensive water sources.
How does geoscience help inform decisions on water availability?
Hydrologists, engineers, and geologists study how water moves in order to locate and quantify surface water and water underground. They use models to predict how much water will be available under different scenarios of climate and societal demand. They also explore alternative water sources like water recycling and desalinization of ocean water.
- Groundwater Information, U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School
- Basic information on the science of groundwater, human interaction with groundwater (wells, groundwater depletion, and overuse), groundwater quality (pesticides, contaminants, water well contamination), use of groundwater, and groundwater measurement, discussion of groundwater and the water cycle, and links to USGS Groundwater data.
- Surface Water Information, U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School
- Basic information on the science of surface water, surface water hazards (floods, drought, storms), surface water quality (runoff, sil fences, sediment ponds, storm sewers, urbanization and water quality, poultry industry and water quality), statistics on surface water use by various sectors, discussion of surface water and the water cycle, measuring surface water, links to surface water data.
- Alternative Water Supplies, Environmental Protection Agency
- Information on alternative water supplies: reuse, aquifer storage and recovery, desalinization, and storm water management, with links to further resources and case examples for each.
- Water Availability Basics, American Geosciences Institute
- Water quality
- Weather hazards