Summary

Competition for water is becoming more intense across the United States. Population growth competes in many areas with demands for water for irrigation and power production. Aquatic ecosystems compete for water used by cities, farms, and power plants to support their minimum flow requirements. In addition, the depletion of water in many aquifers decreases the supply of good quality surface water, and climate change is likely to exacerbate the availability of water as well.

Water quality impaired by human activities constrains water use. Perhaps less understood is that water use can degrade water quality by releasing naturally occurring contaminants, like salts, uranium and radium, into streams and aquifers, thereby constraining water availability.

This briefing will explain and provide examples of the connections between water use and water quality and how they can ultimately affect water availability for critical uses. It will begin by highlighting salinity in the Southwest, where a new USGS study has found reduced concentrations of salts in streams resulting from control activities in irrigated agricultural areas. It also will provide brief examples of how agricultural practices have affected naturally occurring radium in New Jersey, pumping has affected naturally occurring uranium in San Joaquin public-supply wells, and water re-use has introduced man-made organic compounds in coastal aquifers in southern California.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) invite you to a briefing to examine the factors that limit the water available for critical uses throughout the country. The briefing is held in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program.

Speaker Slides