The U.S. Geological Survey's Groundwater Resources Program is conducting an assessment of groundwater availability throughout the United States to gain a better understanding of the status of the Nation's groundwater resources and how changes in land use, water use, and climate may affect those resources. The goal of this National assessment is to improve our ability to forecast water availability for future economic and environmental uses. Assessments will be completed for the Nation's principal aquifer systems to help characterize how much water is currently available, how water availability is changing, and how much water we can expect to have in the future (Reilly and others, 2008).
The concept of groundwater availability is more than just how much water can be pumped from any given aquifer. Groundwater availability is a function of many factors, including the quantity and quality of water and the laws, regulations, economics, and environmental factors that control its use. The primary objective of the North Atlantic Coastal Plain groundwater-availability study is to identify spatial and temporal changes in the overall water budget by more fully determining the natural and human processes that control how water enters, moves through, and leaves the groundwater system. Development of tools such as numerical models can help hydrologists gain an understanding of this groundwater system, allowing forecasts to be made about the response of this system to natural and human stresses, and water quality and ecosystem health to be analyzed, throughout the region.