A congressional briefing led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has spotlighted the importance of monitoring the nation’s groundwater quantity and quality.
Representing USGS at the July 27 briefing was Bill Cunningham, acting chief of the USGS Office of Groundwater.
Groundwater is often referred to as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind resource, yet 78% of community water systems, nearly all of America’s private household wells and 42% of agricultural irrigation water is 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.
“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,” Cunningham said.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of 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% of Minnesotans. The National Ground Water Monitoring Network is a critical resource,” McCollum 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 Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer, Colorado Division of Water Resources; Robert Schreiber, vice president, CDM Smith, representing the American Society of Civil Engineers; and Chris Reimer, government affairs director, National Ground Water Assn.
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.