Groundwater is an essential source of water for drinking, irrigation, municipal uses, and industrial processes, due to its relative abundance and high quality. For many parts of the country, it is the only freshwater option, and other areas heavily rely on groundwater during droughts.
However, increased demand for and reliance on groundwater has resulted in an unprecedented decline in groundwater levels in many places over the past 60 years. Such rapid loss can cause numerous environmental harms to streams, wetlands, and the animals that depend on healthy ecosystems.
A majority of groundwater pumping is for agricultural irrigation. In addition to over-withdrawal, communities are dealing with groundwater pollution caused by agriculture, oil and gas operations, mining of uranium and other materials, and other industrial uses.
All too often, issues with groundwater resources are difficult to detect because, unlike surface water, declines in groundwater can't be seen. Thus it is difficult to effect changes in behaviors, management policies, and laws.
NRDC promotes policies that improve our understanding of threats to groundwater and practices that protect it from depletion and pollution. Among other projects, we’ve supported the USFS groundwater directive and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever proposed rule on in situ leach uranium mining, pressed California to update and better manage its waste underground injection control program, and asked the EPA to reconsider criteria for exempting aquifers from the Safe Drinking Water Act.