Characterization and Monitoring of Groundwater

As a nation, efforts to monitor and characterize ground water resources with regard to quantity and quality have been sporadic and, while successful in some local jurisdictions and watersheds, largely inadequate. We need to collect more reliable, consistent, and comprehensive data that will sufficiently characterize ground water quality and quantity in order to support critical water resource use, protection, and management decisions. This should be done through a coordinated (federal, state, and local) national data collection and monitoring program that gives decision makers the ability to identify such critical information as:Baseline ambient ground water quality.


  • Where and how ground water quality is being degraded.
  • Location of ground water recharge areas.
  • Patterns of ground water withdrawal and recharge within identified watersheds (to sustainably allocate resources and maintain healthy ecosystems).
  • Ground water contribution to stream baseflows and areas of ground water/surface water interaction.
  • Relationship and significance of ground water quantity and quality to the maintenance of healthy rivers, lakes, streams, wildlife habitats, and fisheries within given hydrogeologic settings.

Why ground water characterization and monitoring matters...  

While we have made strides in understanding how ground water/surface water systems work, our ability to characterize how our human activities affect the many natural processes and interactions inherent to specific systems has been constrained. This is primarily due to the lack of long-term sustained support and funding for ground water quality and quantity data collection, analysis, research and development trends, and information dissemination.


From the Ground Water Report to the Nation

Groundwater Characterization - Summary SheetFull Chapter