Policy Statement

Fresh Groundwater

Approved by the Board of Directors of the American Water Resources Association at its January 13, 2018 meeting.

Rationale: About 40 percent of the U.S. population regularly depends upon groundwater for its drinking water, and groundwater constitutes about 43 percent of the nation's irrigation water. Groundwater also provides an important alternative water source in regions where surface water use is highly weather dependent. *^

Policy Statement: Given the critical importance of this water asset and given that groundwater and surface water are often interconnected resources that require full recognition of their ties to achieve sustainable water management, the American Water Resources Association recommends groundwater be managed according to the tenets of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). Following are ten IWRM-related actions groundwater users, water and land resource planners and managers, and decision makers can use to advance sustainable groundwater management.

1. ASSESS RESOURCES. States and related political subdivisions should assess their groundwater resources, including the health of their groundwater basins, to determine static and dynamic water budgets and to identify the nature, timing and extent of water withdrawals each aquifer system can sustain over time. Working with groundwater users and other stakeholders, processes to measure/monitor the sustainability of withdrawals and inflows should be defined and implemented.

2. BUILD PARTNERSHIPS. The appropriate political subdivisions should work with groundwater users and other stakeholders to develop, or encourage development of, agreements and management/ governance strategies to protect groundwater resources, and fully acknowledge transboundary resources.

3. LEGAL FRAMEWORK. Groundwater law, and those policies and regulations based upon it, should stay aligned with the most current concepts and understanding of groundwater science.

4. THINK GROUNDWATER. Policies for agriculture, energy, environment, land-use planning, economic, and urban development policies should incorporate groundwater considerations.

5. MAINTAIN SUSTAINABILITY. In those areas where groundwater use is unsustainable but necessary, efforts should be made to seek sustainable supplies and/or mitigate groundwater use.

6. RESPECT ECOSYSTEMS. The role of groundwater as an essential component of ecosystems and freshwater systems should be respected in management actions and policies.

7. ENGAGE STAKEHOLDERS. Authentic stakeholder engagement should be incorporated in establishing and implementing groundwater management and governance.

8. COMMIT TO UNDERSTAND. Congress, the states and all levels of government should make a commitment to understand and improve governance of the nation's groundwater and its basins, and connected surface waters based on an understanding of hydrology and hydrogeology.

9. PROTECT THE ASSET. Groundwater basins need to be managed with care. Users and managers should protect against the loss of capacity from subsidence, pollution or salt-water-intrusion. When a groundwater basin is polluted, remediation should be a top priority. Environmental and social considerations should be taken into account in the management of groundwater assets.

10. UTILIZE INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACHES. To achieve sustainability, groundwater users, managers, decision makers and other stakeholders should promote and utilize the best scientific, engineering, collaborative, and research practices available.

AWRA recommends the groundwater community, and its stakeholders and decision makers commit to advancing these ten IWRM principles, recognizing that groundwater is an essential component of the world's freshwater supply.

*National Ground Water Association (NGWA). Groundwater Use in the United States of America. 
http://www.ngwa.org/Fundamentals/Documents/usa-groundwater-use-fact-sheet.pdf [Accessed: 5 January 2018]

^National Ground Water Association (NGWA). Groundwater Facts. 
http://www.ngwa.org/Fundamentals/Pages/Groundwater-facts.aspx [Accessed 5 January 2018]

If you have questions about any of our policy statements, please contact AWRA.


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