The availability of ground water is of extreme importance in areas, such as southern Arizona, where it is the main supply for agricultural, industrial, or domestic purposes. Where ground-water use exceeds recharge, monitoring is critical for managing water supplies. Typically, monitoring has been done by measuring water levels in wells; however, this technique only partially describes ground-water conditions in a basin. A new application of geophysical technology is enabling U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to measure changes in the amount of water in an aquifer using a network of microgravity stations. This technique enables a direct measurement of ground-water depletion and recharge. In Tucson, Arizona, residents have relied solely upon ground water for most of their needs since the 19th century. Water levels in some wells in the Tucson area have declined more than 200 ft in the past 50 years. Similar drops in water levels have occurred elsewhere in Arizona. In response to the overdrafting of ground water, the State of Arizona passed legislation designed to attain 'safe yield,' which is defined as a balance between ground-water withdrawals and annual recharge of aquifers. To monitor progress in complying with the legislation, ground-water withdrawals are measured and estimated, and annual recharge is estimated. The Tucson Basin and Avra Valley are two ground-water basins that form the Tucson Active Management Area (TAMA), which by State statute must attain 'safe yield' by the year 2025.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Use of Microgravity to Assess the Effects of El Nino on Ground-Water Storage in Southern Arizona