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Policy Statement 243 - Groundwater Management

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committeeon December 17, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports and encourages a nationally coordinated effort to provide sustainable management of the nation's groundwater resources to ensure adequate supplies, protect the environment, and safeguard public health by:

  • Establishing and enforcing regulations for:
    • Management of groundwater resources by federal, state, tribal, regional and local programs, including administration of regional and state water rights;
    • Protection of groundwaters from depletion and degradation;
    • Remediation of areas of known groundwater contamination; and
    • Consideration of groundwater in water resource management activities, including recharge
  • Coordinating federal, state, tribal, regional, and local programs for:
    • Collection and dissemination of field data;
    • Research on groundwater flows and quality; and
    • To provide technical assistance in groundwater management.

Issue

Groundwater is used for domestic, agricultural, and industrial purposes and is the source of the base environmental flow and water quality of rivers and streams in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey's Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2015 calculated fresh groundwater withdrawals in the United States as 82.3 Billion gal/day, an 8% increase since 2010. Using the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data from 2003 through 2013, a University of California-Irvine led study examined 37 of the Earth's largest aquifers and found that water storage in 21 of the 37 aquifers had declined. This includes the California Central Valley Aquifer System and the multi-state, international Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer. Many groundwater basins were ineffectively managed, resulting in the supply being seriously depleted, degraded or both, with damages extending across political boundaries. This is particularly true with respect to basins used as sources of irrigation waters. Groundwater depletion reduces the available water supply, can reduce base flow, and is linked to surface subsidence. Degradation of groundwater quality has damaged public health and welfare, the economy, and the overall environment. Sources of degradation include over extraction, improper industrial and solid waste disposal, leaky underground and above ground storage tanks, pesticides, septic tanks, fertilizers used in agricultural practices, and improperly abandoned wells. In some cases, there has been damaging intrusion of saline water from a variety of sources. 

Both groundwater and surface water must be protected from human caused contamination or over utilization. It is particularly essential that groundwater management operates within the appropriate legal and institutional framework and be founded on accurate data.

Rationale

It is essential that ASCE promote improvement in the management of the nation's groundwater resources. The public health and welfare, including an adequate supply of water and the need to minimize adverse environmental impacts, demands the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs). These BMPs include wise utilization concepts, coordinated management of ground and surface supplies, accountability for degradation of quality and reduction in quantity, review of potential environmental concerns, and application of the principles of sustainable development.

ASCE Policy Statement 243
First Approved in 1977




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