National Water Availability and Use Pilot Program

U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5209
version 1.0

Methods and Indicators for Assessment of Regional Ground-Water Conditions in the Southwestern United States

By Fred D Tillman, Stanley A. Leake, Marilyn E. Flynn, Jeffrey T. Cordova, Kurt T. Schonauer, and Jesse E. Dickinson


Set of four maps showing water levels


Monitoring the status and trends in the availability of the Nation’s ground-water supplies is important to scientists, planners, water managers, and the general public. This is especially true in the semiarid to arid southwestern United States where rapid population growth and limited surface-water resources have led to increased use of ground-water supplies and water-level declines of several hundred feet in many aquifers. Individual well observations may only represent aquifer conditions in a limited area, and wells may be screened over single or multiple aquifers, further complicating single-well interpretations. Additionally, changes in ground-water conditions may involve time scales ranging from days to many decades, depending on the timing of recharge, soil and aquifer properties, and depth to the water table. The lack of an easily identifiable ground-water property indicative of current conditions, combined with differing time scales of water-level changes, makes the presentation of ground-water conditions a difficult task, particularly on a regional basis. One approach is to spatially present several indicators of ground-water conditions that address different time scales and attributes of the aquifer systems. This report describes several methods and indicators for presenting differing aspects of ground-water conditions using water-level observations in existing data-sets. The indicators of ground-water conditions developed in this study include areas experiencing water-level decline and water-level rise, recent trends in ground-water levels, and current depth to ground water. The computer programs written to create these indicators of ground-water conditions and display them in an interactive geographic information systems (GIS) format are explained and results illustrated through analyses of ground-water conditions for selected alluvial basins in the Lower Colorado River Basin in Arizona.

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For questions about the content of this report, contact Fred Tillman

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