Ground Water:

An Overview

CED-77-69: Published: Jun 21, 1977. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1977.

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Ground water presently supplies about 20 percent of fresh water used in the United States, and although it is plentiful, little more than one quarter of it is available for use with present extraction techniques. Dependence on ground water varies according to locality, with 2 percent of Montana's water and 62 percent of Arizona's coming from ground water.

In many areas, ground water is being used faster than it is being replenished, and to some extent, soil subsidence and saltwater seepage are occurring. The problem is most acute in the High Plains region of western Texas and eastern New Mexico. Ground water management by local and State governments in Western States has emphasized administering and protecting water rights. State water rights laws and lack of sufficient geological data have prevented more intensive management. The Federal Government's contributions are data gathering, research, technical assistance, and water resources development. The Geological Survey has provided data on aquifer systems to managers through its Federal/State cooperative program, but more data are needed. The President indicated that he was recommending major policy reforms in water conservation. Questions posed related to the role of the Government in ground water management, water rights, priorities for Federal assistance, unified management of ground and surface waters, transfer of water from one river basin to another, and possible incentives for decreasing irrigation. These questions warrant consideration by Congress, Federal and State agencies, and private institutions when developing major policy reform for better ground water management.

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