The Leading Movie On Groundwater

Month: November 2021

Groundwater Facts

Facts About the World's Shrinking Groundwater Resources | Seametrics

  1. Groundwater is the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand.
  2. Each drop of rain that soaks into the soils moves downward to the water table, which is the water level in the groundwater reservoir. Groundwater does not normally occur in underground streams, lakes, or veins. Groundwater is found in soils and sands able to retain the water — much like a sponge holds water.
  3. Some 2.78 million trillion gallons of groundwater, 30.1 percent of the world’s fresh water, are estimated for the entire planet of Earth.1 Of the total 349 billion gallons of freshwater the United States withdraws each day, groundwater is estimated to be 79.6 billion gallons or 26 percent.2
  4. From 2010 to 2015, groundwater use in the United States increased by 8.3% while surface water use declined by 13.9%.3
  5. About a quarter of all U.S. rainfall becomes groundwater. Groundwater provides much of the flow of many streams; many lakes and streams are “windows” to the water table. In large part, the flow in a stream represents water that has flowed from the ground into the stream channel. It is estimated by the USGS that about 30 percent of U.S. stream-flow is from groundwater, although it is higher in some locations and less in others.4
  6. About 90 percent of our freshwater supplies lie underground, but less than 27 percent of the water Americans use comes from underground sources, which illustrates the under-utilization of groundwater.5
  7. Groundwater is a significant water supply source — the amount of groundwater storage dwarfs our present surface water supply.
  8. Hydrologists estimate, according to the National Geographic Society, U.S. groundwater reserves to be at least 33,000 trillion gallons — equal to the amount discharged into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River in the past 200 years.6
  9. At any given moment, groundwater is 20 to 30 times greater than the amount in all the lakes, streams, and rivers of the United States.7
  10. The United States uses 82.3 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public supply, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and other purposes.8
  11. California pumps 17.4 billion gallons per day of groundwater for all purposes, 2.4 times as much as the second-ranked state — Texas (7.2 bgd).9
  12. Groundwater is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing soils and rocks beneath the surface of the earth.
  13. More than 15.9 million water wells for all purposes serve the United States.10
  14. Approximately 500,000 new residential wells are constructed annually, according to NGWA estimates. The construction of these vitally needed water supply systems involves the use of more than 18,460 drilling machines by an estimated 8,085 groundwater contracting firms.11
  15. Groundwater is a renewable resource.
  16. In most parts of the country, water removed from the ground is constantly replaced, although in some parts of the country such as arid and semiarid regions, a low rate of replenishment is far exceeded by the rate of groundwater pumping, resulting in serious problems of groundwater mining.
  17. Adequate time is needed to allow replenishment of underlying groundwater reservoirs (aquifers); also such areas must be properly managed in order to prevent water-soluble waste products stored in these areas from infiltrating and polluting the underground supply.
  18. NGWA has determined that 38 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply — be it from either a public source or private well.12
  19. Private household wells constitute the largest share of all water wells in the United States — more than 13,135 million year-round occupied households have their own well.13
  20. Other kinds of wells are used for municipal systems, industry, agriculture, and quality monitoring. Groundwater accounts for 39 percent of all the water used by U.S. municipalities.14
  21. Michigan, with an estimated 1,121,075 households served by private water wells, is the largest state market, followed by Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, and Florida.15
  22. Irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States. Some 57.2 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from 475,796 wells.16 In 1900, the U.S. used only 2.2 billion gallons of groundwater daily for irrigation from 17,000 wells.
  23. More than 90 percent of the groundwater pumped from the Ogallala, the nation’s largest aquifer underlying some 250,000 square miles stretching from Texas to South Dakota, is used for agricultural irrigation. Representing about one-third of all U.S. irrigated agriculture, it creates about $20 billion annually in food and fiber.
  24. If spread across the surface of the entire United States, the Ogallala’s groundwater would cover all 50 states with 1.5 feet of water. Scientists estimate it could take 6,000 years to refill naturally if it were ever to be fully withdrawn.17

Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater | UNSW  Newsroom

  1. Texas leads the nation in the number of irrigation wells with 81,511.18
  2. The following myths continue to be perpetuated about groundwater:
    • Groundwater moves rapidly.
    • Groundwater migrates thousands of miles.
    • There is no relationship between groundwater and surface water.
    • Groundwater removed from the earth is never returned.
    • Groundwater is mysterious and occult.
    • Groundwater is not a significant source of water supply.

New film shows that clean water isn’t a guarantee for many in California

National Geographic’s new film, “Water & Power: A California Heist,” explores the impacts of California’s drought and the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater crisis, and highlights issues surrounding the state’s water rights and the powerful interests that sometimes control them.

The film, which uses beautiful cinematography and testimonials from lawyers, water managers, and residents, offers a stark contrast between those who have continued to profit during California’s drought and those who have struggled to meet even their most basic water needs.

The film places an emphasis on the “Monterey Amendments,” a back-room deal struck in 1994 that included the creation of the Kern Water Bank and opened the door to the bank’s eventual privatization. At the time, well-endowed businesses with large landholdings were given control of these groundwater reserves, which they used to shore up highly profitable agricultural businesses. Since then, groundwater levels have plummeted and become contaminated, impacting safe drinking water supplies for small communities.


While the film skews some of the relationships between agricultural water use and drinking water supplies and distorts some important historical details, it does appropriately shine a light on the critical drinking water needs of the vulnerable communities in California’s Central Valley and illuminates the importance of transparency in water management.

Access inequality

It is an absurd notion that, within an easy afternoon’s drive of the hub of the world’s tech industry and several of the country’s most affluent cities, tens of thousands of our fellow Californians don’t have access to clean drinking water.

In small, rural towns residents rely on one or two community wells. As reserves run dry and become contaminated, residents don’t have the resources to drill a new well or connect to state distribution systems.

Meanwhile, wealthy farms and large cities have the technology and capital to pump more groundwater and build new water conveyance infrastructure to meet their water needs.

This is the dynamic portrayed in “Water & Power” and it’s a problem that must be fixed. Luckily California has the resources to make this happen.

Waterboard leaders from 13 communities throughout California’s Central Valley attended the Leadership Academy to build engagement capacity and share lessons about small water system management. (Credit: Kike Arnal)

Community participation

We at Environmental Defense Fund are re-doubling our efforts, working alongside environmental justice and water management leaders to bring real solutions to these vulnerable communities.

Last year, Self-Help EnterprisesRural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), and Environmental Defense Fund executed a series of bilingual leadership workshops in small, rural communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Pulling from RCAC’s years of on-the-ground experience, the Leadership Academy aimed to build the engagement capacity of rural community leaders and bridge the communications gap with policymakers.


We applaud the tireless efforts of our partners and other organizations like the Community Water Center and Clean Water Action, who have been working for years to address the needs of these vulnerable communities.

Increased attention to water access from influential water interests including the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is a sign that these efforts are starting to pay off.

We look forward to working with these groups to design solutions that quickly bring clean, safe drinking water to all the people of California.

This is a problem that California has the knowledge and resources to solve. Let’s get to it.


This blog post is not a film review and is not an endorsement of the views expressed in “Water & Power: A California Heist”


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