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Water is essential for society and, as demand steadily rises, our most precious commodity. Geoscientists study how to provide a clean and secure water source to meet society's needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
U.S. Geological Survey

Case Studies & Factsheets

Cover of Spills in Oil and Natural Gas Fields

Introduction Oilfield spills can harm wildlife and pose a risk to human health if they reach fresh water sources or contaminate soil or air. The enormous size of the oil and gas industry and the huge volumes of oil and produced water that are handled, stored, and transported result in thousands of...

Fig. 1. A groundwater hydrograph from a domestic well completed in an isolated sandstone of the Cretaceous lower Mancos Shale. The water level dropped about 70 ft in one year and the well subsequently went dry. Credit: P. Johnson

The geologic and groundwater mapping products support county land use and planning decisions in this rapidly developing area. State water agencies, planners, developers, home owners, home buyers, real estate agents, and county officials use the maps to support an array of decisions regarding water...

Cover of Groundwater Protection in Oil and Gas Production

Introduction The United States relies on groundwater for roughly 25% of its fresh water.1 This groundwater is found in porous, permeable rocks (aquifers) that often lie close to the Earth’s surface – the deepest freshwater aquifers are found more than 6,000 feet underground,2 but most are much...


Fresh water from underground Groundwater is any water found underground in the cracks and pores in soil, sand, or rock. Groundwater provides 25% of the fresh water used in the United States.1 It is particularly important for irrigation and domestic uses in arid or remote areas, where surface water...


Introduction Dry wells improve stormwater drainage and aquifer recharge by providing a fast, direct route for rainwater to drain deep into underlying sediment and rock. Dry wells are most common in the western U.S. where clay or caliche layers slow down the natural drainage of water into underlying...

cover of Currents Factsheet 2019-002

Traditional geoscience departments commonly require 60 semester hours of geology and geology-related elective courses to achieve a BA/BS degree. Of the 60 hours, typically half are required courses in geology. Recently, the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG®) evaluated more...


The Need for Groundwater Management: Sustaining water supplies and preventing hazards In California, surface water from rainfall, snowmelt, and distant rivers rarely meets the state’s urban and agricultural water needs. Groundwater is an essential water source, providing 35% of the fresh water used...

Cover of Offshore Oil and Gas

Introduction Many of the world’s oil and gas resources lie beneath the oceans. Advances in exploration, drilling, and production technologies allow production in water more than 10,000 feet deep and more than 100 miles offshore. Major spills are rare but damage sensitive ocean and coastal...

Cover of Water in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction The oil and gas industry consumes and produces water. Water is used to drill and hydraulically fracture (“frack”) wells, refine and process oil and gas, and produce electricity in some natural gas power plants. Water is also naturally present in the rocks that contain oil and gas and...

Cover of Abandoned Wells

Introduction In 2017, there were one million active oil and gas wells in the United States.1 When a well reaches the end of its productive life, or if it fails to find economic quantities of oil or gas, the well operator is required by regulators to remove all equipment and plug the well to prevent...

Cover of U.S. Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations

Overview Regulation of oil and gas operations has existed in various forms for over 100 years.1 Regulation has several objectives: protecting the environment (including air and water quality), protecting cultural resources, protecting workers’ and the public’s health and safety, and reducing wasted...

Fig. 1 - The geologic map of part of the Pell City quadrangle, AL, accurately identifies the recharge area of the Fort Payne Chert aquifer (medium blue) that must be protected from pollution. Credit: W. Thomas

In central Alabama, the Mississippian-age Fort Payne Chert is an important aquifer for domestic and municipal water supplies. Geologic mapping shows the extent of Fort Payne Chert exposure at the ground surface, which is the recharge area for the aquifer. Planning for protection of the groundwater...

Cover of Geoscientists in Petroleum and the Environment

Introduction Geoscience – the study of the Earth – underpins our understanding of the many intersections between petroleum and the environment, from the search for resources to the study of air pollutants. Without the work of geoscientists, we would have neither the energy system nor the...

cover of Currents Factsheet 2019-001

According to recent American Geosciences Institute (AGI) workforce data, less than 11% of geoscience graduates receiving a BA/BS or MA/MS degree develop a career in academia and/or research. Given this statistic, the question then arises: How are geologists making a living upon graduation in 2019?...

Cover of The Pinedale Gas Field, Wyoming

Introduction The Pinedale field is the sixth-largest gas field in the United States.1 The core development area covers about 70 square miles in a sparsely populated area of southwest Wyoming, 70-100 miles north of Rock Springs.2 In 2015, the Pinedale field produced 4 million barrels of gas...


Why water storage? A reliable water supply is essential for economic, environmental, and public health, but natural water supplies vary with the seasons and between years. Water storage, whether in reservoir lakes or underground, helps to ensure that water is available even during droughts....

Cover of Heavy Oil

Introduction Naturally occurring crude oil comes in many forms. The most familiar to many people is light crude oil, which is less dense than water and flows easily at room temperature. Heavy oil and bitumen are forms of crude oil that are more viscous (thicker) and dense. The largest crude oil...

Cover of Water Sources for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Demand Hydraulically fracturing a modern well can require millions of gallons of water for the initial fracturing process. This is a potential problem in arid regions with competing demands for fresh water (i.e. high water stress), such as Colorado and West Texas (see...


What is a Dry Well? A dry well is a well that is used to transmit surface water underground and is deeper than its width at the surface (see image, below). Most dry wells are 30 to 70 feet deep and 3 feet wide at the surface. They are lined with perforated casings and can be filled with gravel or...

Cover of Using Produced Water

Opportunities and Concerns in Using Produced Water Produced water is natural groundwater that is extracted along with oil and gas. It is commonly salty and mixed with oil residues,1 so it must be either disposed of or treated and reused. About 2.5 billion gallons of produced water are extracted...

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GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: Converting Membrane Interface Probe Sensor Results into VOC NAPL Distribution Information. Image courtesy of Roger Lamb
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course will focus on how to use Membrane Interface Probe sensor results in combination with soil and groundwater analytical results to map the distribution of volatile organic chemical non aqueous phase liquids. This course covers guidelines for using direct sensing tools such as the MIHPT...

GOLI Course: Techniques for Developing High Resolution LNAPL Conceptual Site Models; Image courtesy of Roger Lamb
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course is intended for geologists involved in Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL) assessment and remediation. This course provides information on the development of high resolution conceptual site models that can be used to guarantee the project goals are met. The class will cover...

Cover of Bedrock Wells Exploration and Development course
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides a straightforward, informational "building block" approach to a working understanding of bedrock wells. Essential information will be presented with the goal of providing a thorough, yet realistic, understanding of bedrock wells, and in particular, enhanced awareness of the...

Course catalog image for Well Development in New England GOLI course. Courtesy: Ted Morine
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course is designed to provide water utility personnel, engineers, hydrogeologists, regulatory officials, and other interested persons an understanding about the sand and gravel and bedrock aquifers in New England, how and why well performance declines over time, and information about...

GOLI Course: Water as One Resource; Image Copyright © Marli Miller, University of Oregon. http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides an overview of how groundwater and surface water interact, what the implications of these interactions on water resources are, and how water can be more effectively managed if an understanding of these interactions is incorporated.

The course presenters are Ken...

GOLI Course: Desalination as a Source of Fresh Water; Image credit: James Grellier, Licensed under Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource in an increasingly populous and water-intensive world. Maintaining an adequate supply of fresh water both nationally and globally will be one of the largest challenges of the 21st century. Desalination of salty water, from both the ocean and the...

cover image for GOLI Course on Writing for Environmental Careers
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides insight into the technical writing skills that are needed by geoscience students pursuing careers in the environmental consulting industry. Speakers discuss skills that are developed during undergraduate and graduate academic training, types of written products that are...

GOLI Course: Making Produced Water More Productive; Image credit: USGS/ Doug Duncan
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Geoscience is essential to our understanding and management of produced water, an inevitable byproduct of oil and gas development. This course provides a scientific and regulatory background of produced water, how it is commonly disposed, what opportunities exist for the re-use of produced water...

Cover image Understanding Professional Geologist License Requirements: California 2019, (Image credit: Laurie Racca)
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course focuses on the qualification requirements to get a Professional Geologist (PG) license in California and upcoming changes that applicants should understand. It will also provide an overview of the California laws and regulations that govern the practice of geology. Knowledge of...

GOLI Webinar on Story Maps
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Communicating results of geoscience investigations to a diverse set of audiences will grow in importance in our 21st century world. Story maps are web mapping applications that provide geoscientists with the ability to combine 2D and 3D maps, audio, video, photographs, and narrative that can be...

Cover image for How Consulting Works webinar (Image credit: Mimi Thian on Unsplash)
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course covers what it takes to succeed while working for yourself. Topics include why consultants get hired, the pros and cons of consulting, and whether or not you might be a good fit. The course delves into the risks of consulting and how to minimize them...financing and promoting your...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

1838, Michigan Geological Survey

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1839, Michigan Geological Survey

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1840, Michigan Geological Survey

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1841, Michigan Geological Survey

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1841, Michigan Geological Survey

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1850, Michigan Geological Survey

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1869, Indiana Geological and Water Survey

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1869, Indiana Geological and Water Survey

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1869, Indiana Geological and Water Survey

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1871, Indiana Geological and Water Survey

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