Critical issues affecting groundwater quality governance and management in the United States

Published in Water , v.10(6)

Petersen-Perlman, J. D., S. B. Megdal, A. K. Gerlak, R. G. Varady, M. Wireman, A. A. Zuniga-Teran

Publication year 2018

Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona, 350 North Campbell Avenue, Tucson,
AZ 85719, USA
Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, University of Arizona, 803 East First Street, Tucson,
AZ 85719, USA
Graniteridge Groundwater, 274 Granite Drive, Boulder, CO 80302, USA

IAI Program


This work was funded primarily by the Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (GWREF)
through a grant entitled &ldquoA Survey of Groundwater Governance and Management: Strategies, Challenges, and
Opportunities Connected to Water Quality.&rdquo Additional support was provided by the Technology Research
Initiative Fund administered by the University of Arizona Office for Research, Discovery & Innovation, funded
under Proposition 301, the Arizona Sales Tax for Education Act in 2000. We also acknowledge support from the
International Water Security Network, funded by Lloyd&rsquos Register Foundation (LRF, London, UK), a charitable
foundation in the United Kingdom helping to protect life and property by supporting engineering-related
education, public engagement and the application of research and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change
Research (IAI, Montevideo, Uruguay) for Project SGP-CRA005, supported by U.S. National Science Foundation
(NSF, Alexandria, VA, USA) Grant No. GEO-1138881 and for Research Project CRN3056, supported by NSF Grant
No. GEO-1128040.

IAI Project CRN3056, SGP-CRA005


Groundwater is increasingly important for meeting water demand across the United States (U.S.). Forward thinking governance and effective management are necessary for its sustainable use. In the U.S., state governments are primarily responsible for groundwater governance (i.e., making laws, policies, and regulations) and management (i.e., implementation of laws, policies, and regulations). This decentralized system results in diverse strategies and practices. We surveyed a water quality professional from each state to better understand commonalities and differences across states. These professionals identify a wide assortment of groundwater issues and concerns, including quality and quantity impairment, staffing and budget issues, private well vulnerability, and overdraft. Respondents indicate contamination problems from natural and anthropogenic sources. Most respondents report that their states have significantly changed groundwater quality policy during the past 30 years. While most states have multiple funding sources for water quality programs, program budgets have decreased in the last decade, thereby hindering effective implementation of new policies. Over half of respondents indicate that water-quality/water-level monitoring and increased groundwater pumping will require more attention over the next decade. Several respondents anticipate groundwater regulation changes in the next five years. We discuss how our findings align with current groundwater uses in the U.S.