Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Segment 1, California, Nevada

Hydrologic Atlas 730-B




California and Nevada compose Segment 1 of the Ground Water Atlas of the United States. Segment 1 is a region of pronounced physiographic and climatic contrasts. From the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada of northern California, where precipitation is abundant, to the Great Basin in Nevada and the deserts of southern California, which have the most arid environments in the United States, few regions exhibit such a diversity of topography or environment.

Since the discovery of gold in the mid-1800's, California has experienced a population, industrial, and agricultural boom unrivaled by that of any other State. Water needs in California are very large, and the State leads the United States in agricultural and municipal water use. The demand for water exceeds the natural water supply in many agricultural and nearly all urban areas. As a result, water is impounded by reservoirs in areas of surplus and transported to areas of scarcity by an extensive network of aqueducts.

Unlike California, which has a relative abundance of water, development in Nevada has been limited by a scarcity of recoverable freshwater. The Truckee, the Carson, the Walker, the Humboldt, and the Colorado Rivers are the only perennial streams of significance in the State. The individual basin-fill aquifers, which together compose the largest known ground-water reserves, receive little annual recharge and are easily depleted. Nevada is sparsely populated, except for the Las Vegas, the Reno-Sparks, and the Carson City areas, which rely heavily on imported water for public supplies. Although important to the economy of Nevada, agriculture has not been developed to the same degree as in California due, in large part, to a scarcity of water. Some additional ground-water development might be possible in Nevada through prudent management of the basin-fill aquifers and increased utilization of ground water in the little-developed carbonate-rock aquifers that underlie the eastern one-half of the State. The potential problem of withdrawals in excess of natural recharge, however, will require careful management of ground-water withdrawals.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Segment 1, California, Nevada
Series title:
Hydrologic Atlas
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
28 p.
Larger Work Title:
Ground Water Atlas of the United States
First page:
Last page:
United States
California, Nevada