Ground water is one of the Nation?s most important natural resources. It provides drinking water to communities, supports industry and agriculture, and sustains streams and wetlands. A long record of contributions exists in understanding ground-water movement in sand and gravel aquifers; historically, these aquifers were easily accessible and the first to be investigated. With increased demand for water, communities are looking to fractured-rock aquifers, where water moves through fractures in the rock. Frac-tures, however, may not always convey or store large quantities of water. Understanding ground-water flow through fractured-rock aquifers is an area of ground-water research that will have increasing importance to our Nation over the coming years. Many areas of the United States rely on fractured-rock aquifers for water supply. In addition, areas experiencing population growth in the Northeast, Southeast, and mountainous regions of the West are likely to rely heavily on water supplies from fractured-rock aquifers. Finding water for thirsty communities, however, is not the only societal issue requiring an understanding of ground-water flow in fractured rock. Land-use practices affect water quality in fractured-rock aquifers, particularly where ground water flows rapidly through fractures. Fractured rock aquifers also are viewed as potential repositories for radioactive and other types of waste, where it is desirable for the ground water to be inaccessible or move at a very slow rate.
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Fractured-rock aquifers, understanding an increasingly important source of water