The Biden-Harris Administration is leading action to advance water conservation across the West. As climate change leads to intensified droughts throughout the region, President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is delivering drought resilience resources and protecting the Colorado River Basin for all who depend on it.

More work lies ahead—especially for groundwater, which is interconnected with the surface water that these conservation efforts are preserving. Groundwater—which is fresh water that lies beneath Earth’s surface—is part of the natural water cycle. Groundwater is a critical resource for agriculture, manufacturing, mining, energy production, and more. Groundwater also supplies drinking water for half the U.S. population, including nearly all the rural population. In the western states especially, groundwater resources are being depleted at an alarming rate, mostly from agricultural withdrawal. The problem of groundwater depletion is exacerbated by climate change and precipitation variability and in many aquifers, groundwater withdrawal has outpaced natural and artificial recharge. There is a need to explore the consequences of artificial recharge and to identify successful recharge approaches that might be scaled across the country.

In many parts of the country, the quality of groundwater has become so poor that it seriously impacts the health of communities that rely on it. This is especially true for farming and Tribal communities with no other access to potable water. Groundwater is managed locally, with best practices that vary from state to state,  but there is an opportunity to develop and scale approaches to restore clean water in every community.

To safeguard our future water security, food security, and economic security, we need a clear understanding of total groundwater use, recharge, and storage across the United States. Then we need to build on that understanding to guide the development of national stewardship strategies for this critical resource.

Following a public session on Understanding Groundwater, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has launched a working group on America’s groundwater to consider the challenges and opportunities to improve our understanding and stewardship of this critical resource. PCAST looks forward to working with and learning from the efforts of the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, other federal agencies, national and regional stakeholders, and many state and local agencies and organizations.

To support the development of a report to advance government-wide action on groundwater, PCAST is collecting input from the public that addresses the following questions:

  • How can we enhance the timely collection of data on groundwater inventory, use, recharge, and flow across the United States to gain a whole-of-country picture of the nation’s groundwater resources? 
  • How can we effectively model and predict changes in the inventory, recharge, and flow of groundwater in the context of the overall water cycle and provide that information to stakeholders and decision-makers?
  • How can we efficiently scale groundwater recharge while mitigating risks?
  • How can we ensure clean and safe groundwater, especially for the communities that are affected most by groundwater contamination and depletion?
  • How can we engage with communities to successfully ensure a sustainable supply of groundwater, including for agriculture, industry, energy, human consumption, and healthy ecosystems and biodiversity?
  • What strategies and incentives can help limit groundwater over-use?

We invite written submissions from the public regarding any of the issues or questions highlighted here, or addressing complementary issues that you think PCAST should consider.

Please send your ideas no later than July 1, 2024, to with “Groundwater” in the subject line. Submissions should be no more than 5 pages in length, should provide actionable ideas, and should not include proprietary information or any information inappropriate for public disclosure.

Thank you for sharing your ideas.

Groundwater Working Group Co-Leads: Inez Fung, Joe Kiani, and Steve Pacala

Groundwater Working Group Members: Laura Greene and Cathie Woteki

All PCAST Member Bios


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