What? No national groundwater monitoring network in the US? We've got drought, climate change, groundwater pollution, the potential for disputes over groundwater between political jurisdictions - yet no national groundwater monitoring (quantity and quality) network?
If those reasons are insufficient, just peruse (or simply read the title of) the recent USGS report by Lenny Konikow, Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008).
Now comes a 2013 revision of a 2009 report, A National Framework for Ground-Water Monitoring in the United States, by The Subcommittee on Ground Water (SOCW) of The Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI).
The ACWI is comprised of Federal, regional, state and local agencies, professional societies, civil society, trade groups, etc.
The overall goal of the SOGW is to develop and encourage implementation of a nationwide, long term ground-water quantity and quality monitoring framework that would provide information necessary for the planning, management, and development of ground-water supplies to meet current and future water needs, and ecosystem requirements.
The US actually does have a monitoring network comprised of existing wells; access the portal. There are also five pilot projects; here is a report on the projects. The report calls for full national implementation; we're not there yet.
Here is the report's foreword:
The establishment and management of a National Ground-Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN) in the United States would represent a significant achievement in water-resource management. The need for ground-water monitoring focused on the major aquifers and aquifer systems in the USA is increasingly important as a key element of sustainable ground-water resource management and use. The National Framework described in this report provides detailed information and recommendations for developing and operating a national ground-water monitoring network that would provide ongoing data collection on ground-water quantity and quality. These data will be available to the public and will be critical for addressing ground-water management issues at the Federal, State, Tribal and local levels. The data will be particularly useful for “state of the resource” assessments requested by State Legislatures and the U.S. Congress. The National Framework was developed by the Subcommittee on Ground Water (SOGW), an ad-hoc committee under the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI), which is a Department of the Interior Federal Advisory Committee.
Implementation of the NGWMN will require a partnership between State and Federal water-resource management agencies. The monitoring network, as described in this document, is intended to make use of and enhance existing Federal, multi-state, State, and local ground-water monitoring programs. The network will consist primarily of existing wells that are currently being used for regional and statewide ground-water monitoring. As a result it will be necessary to (a) identify wells in existing programs that are suitable for inclusion in the national network, (b) align water-level monitoring frequencies and water-quality analyte lists/sampling frequencies conducted by the source networks with suggested NGWMN frequencies, and (c) add new wells to the network as needed and as funding is available.
Full development and implementation of the NGWMN will require funding and personnel resources. To evaluate and develop meaningful information about the feasibility of the NGWMN concepts and required resources, five pilot studies were conducted in six states. These pilot studies confirmed the feasibility of the NGWMN concepts and provided estimated costs for four major elements of the NGWMN: (1) well network development, (2) field practices, (3) data management, and (4) implementation. These estimated costs, while varying among states, provide guidance on funding requirements associated with implementation of the NGWMN. It is expected that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will provide day-to-day management of the NGWMN. The SOGW will serve in an advisory role to the USGS. It is anticipated that the NGWMN will be incrementally funded and not fully developed for a few years. Thus, it is important to recognize the need for a phased approach to implementation of the network. In the initial phase, the network will not be fully developed. The number and locations of monitoring wells that will be put into the network may not meet all of the desired criteria; however, it is important to get the network started. During a transition phase, the USGS and SOGW will continue to solicit participation in the NGWMN by data providers—mostly states—and provide guidance to state water-resource agencies for adding wells to the NGWMN. The final phase of the network will consist of a long-term ground-water quantity and quality monitoring program, conducted under a scientifically rigorous sampling and analysis plan as well as an interactive data management and retrieval system that would allow for input and use of data by a variety of data users. The time frames associated with these three implementation phases are not known with certainty but are expected to occur over a number of years.
Note that a partnership between the states and the Federal government is needed. In fact, all organizations that collect groundwater data should be considered for inlcusion in the network.
Here are recommendations for next steps (p. 58):
1. The Subcommittee on Ground Water should continue with its current structure of public and private sector data providers and data users.
2. A National Program Board, possibly supported by Regional Program Boards, composed of NGWMN data providers should be established.
3. An agency should be named to provide day-to-day management of the NGWMN as well as provide guidance to NGWMN data providers. The SOGW recommends, based on experience and mission, that the USGS be considered for this role and that a distinct management and operations group be created within the USGS. The ACWI should provide this recommendation to the Department of Interior for their appropriate action.
4. The management and operations group should begin dialog with data producers to evaluate existing well networks, the coverage of major aquifers, and the addition of the appropriate wells into the NGWMN.
5. Protocols for site selection for the NGWMN should be developed, and gaps in the network should be identified.
6. The preliminary Internet portal system used for the Pilot Studies should be developed into a full production level data portal that can handle all the data for the Nation.
7. The NGWMN cannot be completed without Federal funds to support it. The ACWI should facilitate the Federal funding opportunities outlined in this chapter. Federal funding sources would assure participation by data providers, operation of backbone wells/springs, manage- ment and operation of the network, and development and operation of a data portal.
By the way, if you are wondering why 'groundwater' is spelled as two words, it is because this group was established when that was the protocol and all its reports use that convention. For bibliographic purposes, the two word usage is retained.
One word or two, tt's time to get this thing done!
“In many of these systems, we’re removing water faster than it is being replenished. That is not sustainable in the long run.” - Leonard Konikow, from a Circle of Blue article