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Water Resources

Hydrologic Cycle
Hydrosphere: All the water at or
near the surface of the earth
Amount of water essentially
constant and moves between
different reservoirs
100 million billion gallons move
through Hydrologic Cycle
Oceans account for ~96%, Fresh
water lakes and streams for only

Distribution of Water

Hydrologic Cycle
Thousands of km3/yr

Ground water

22% of all fresh water occur

Aquifer: Underground formation that
holds and yields water
A good aquifer needs to be both
porous and permeable

Porosity and Permeability

Porosity: Proportion of void space: pore space,

cracks, vesicles

Gravel : 25-45% (1K - 10K), Clay: 45-55%(<.01)

sandstone: 5-30% (0.3 - 3), Granite: <1 to 5%(.003 to .
higher porosity in well rounded, equigranular, coarse grained

Permeability: Measure of how readily fluid

passes through a material
Depends on the size of the pores and how well they
are interconnected
Clay has high porosity but low permeabilty

Less porosity




<0.01 m/day



0.01 - 10

gravel 25 - 45%

1000 to 10,000



Zone of Aeration or

Vadose Zone or
Unsaturated Zone:
Overlies Phreatic
Zone. Pore spaces
partly filled with water.
Contains soil moisture.

of Saturation or Phreatic Zone:

saturated zone overlying impermeable bed
rock. Water fills all the available pore spaces
Water Table: top of the zone of saturation
where not confined by impermeable rock

Water table follows the topography but more gently

Intersection of water table and ground surface produces
lakes, streams, spring, wetlands
Ground water flows from higher elevation to lower, from areas
of lower use to higher use, from wet areas to dry areas.

Darcys law

Hydraulic Gradient: Slope of the

ground water table
Rate of flow is proportional to the
hydraulic gradient


Recharge: Process of replenishment of Ground

Water by infiltration, migration and percolation
Aquifer: A rock that holds enough water and
transmits it rapidly. Porous and Permeable.
Sandstone and Coarse Clastic Sedimentary
rocks make good aquifers
Aquitard and Aquiclude: Rocks of low and very
low permeability e.g., shale, slate
Perched water table: Local aquifer in Vadose

Confined and Unconfined Aquifer

Unconfined Aquifer: open to

atmosphere e.g., overlain by permeable
rocks and soils
Confined aquifer: sandwiched between
Artesian System: Water rises above the
level in aquifer because of hydrostatic

Potentiometric surface: Height to which

water pressure would raise the water.


System: Water rises above the

level in aquifer because of hydrostatic

surface: Height to which

water pressure would raise the water.

Consequences of Ground Water


Lowering of Water Table

Cone of depression: Circular lowering of water

immediately around a well

Consequences of Ground Water

overlapping cones of depression causes
lowering of regional water table
Water mining: rate of recharge too slow for
replenishment in human life time

Compaction and Subsurface subsidence

Consequences of Ground Water


Compaction and Subsurface

Building damage, collapse
flooding and coastal erosion
e.g., Venice,
Galveston/Houston (80 sq km
permanently flooded), San
Joaquin Valley (9m subsidence)
Pumping in of water no solution

Land subsidence in
San Joaquin Valley ,

The High Plains Aquifer

The High Plains is a 174,000-square-mile area of flat to

gently rolling terrain that includes parts of eight States
from South Dakota to Texas.
moderate precipitation but in general has a low naturalrecharge rate to the ground-water system.
Unconsolidated alluvial deposits that form a water-table
aquifer called the High Plains aquifer underlie the
Since early 1800s, irrigation water pumped from the
aquifer has made the High Plains one of the Nations
most important agricultural areas.
the intense use of ground water for irrigation has
caused upto 100m decline in water-level in parts of
Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Changes in groundwater levels in the

High Plains aquifer
from before groundwater development
to 1997. (V.L.
McGuire, U.S.
Geological Survey,
written commun.,

The Gulf Coastal Plain Aquifer Sys

The Gulf Coastal Plain aquifer system underlie about

290,000 square miles extending from Texas to
westernmost Florida, including offshore areas to the edge
of the Continental Shelf.
Water withdrawals from the aquifer system have caused
lowering of hydraulic heads at and near pumping
reduced discharges to streams, lakes, and wetlands;
induced movement of saltwater into parts of aquifers
that previously contained freshwater;
and caused land subsidence in some areas as a result
of the compaction of interbedded clays within aquifers.

Land subsidence in Houston

Flooding in coastal Galveston because of subsidence



upconing below cone of

Aquifer below Brooklyn, NY
Serious problem in Gulf Coast
and California

Salt water
in caostal

Salt water intrusion in


Extent of
salt water
incursion in

forms in areas with abundant water and
soluble bedrock (gypsum or limestone)
collapse follows ground water


Dripstones in a cavern

Urbanisation and ground water

Loss of Recharge
Impermeable cover retards recharge
Filling of wetlands kills recharge area

Well planned holding pond can help

in recharging ground water

Water Quality

Most freshwater contain dissolved substances

concentrations are described in ppm or ppb
TDS=Total Dissolved Solids
500 to 1000 ppm for drinking water
2000 ppm for livestock
some solids (e.g., Iron, Sulfur) more harmful
than others (e.g. calcium)
synthetic chemicals can be toxic at ppb level
Radioactive elements pose special hazard
Uranium, Radium, Radon

Hard water

Hard Water:
Common in limestone country
contains dissolved Ca and Mg;
problematic if >100 ppm
problem with soap
leaves deposits in plumbing and in
can be cured with water softener
typically ion exchange through zeolites

Water Use in US

4200 billion gallons of precipitation

2750 billion gallons lost by
1400 billion gallons available for
Biological need : 1 gal/person/day
US consumption: 1800 gal/person/day
= 400 billion gallons per day for the entire US

Offstream Use: water diverted from

source e.g.,for irrigation or thermal
power generation
Consumptive: water used up

For farming, drinking or lost by evaporation

Instream: water returns to flow:

e.g., for hydroelectric power

Water Use contd

Main Uses:
Thermoelectric Power
Surface: Ground water = 67:33
Consumed 2%, Return Flow 98%
Surface: Ground water = 63:33
Consumed 56%, Loss 20%, Return Flow 24%
Surface 67% (saline 12%), Ground water 15% (1% saline),
Public Supply 19%
Consumption 15%, Return Flow 85%
Public Supply 86%, Ground Water 13%, Surface 1%
Consumption 23%, Return Flow 77%

Irrigation and Ground water

Thus, irrigation is the major

consumer of ground water
Western states are the major
drawers of ground water causing
serious environmental problems

Most of the precipitation is in the eastern states but

Most of the water withdrawal is in the western

states (see also the next slide)

Total withdrawal increased

from 1950 to 1980 and has
held steady since then
although population has
increased by 16%
Withdrawal for
thermoelectric power
generation 190,000 Mgal/day:
largest of any other category
Higher water price, more
public awareness,
conservation, better farming
and industrial techniques will
keep water demand in check

Water Rights

Riparian Rights (Eastern USA):

Every landowner can make reasonable use of
lake or stream or water flowing through or
bordering his property
Municipalities have the right of eminent
domain: at times of scarcity, cities get their
requirement first
Sale of riparian rights allowed in some states
Practical in regions of plentiful water

Law of Prior Appropiation

First come, first served
Settlers can lay claim to certain amount of
water which will be honored for perpetuity
The oldest claim are honored first and any left
over goes to the next claimant and so on..
Los Angeles bought up water rights in 1900
from areas far and wide, some even from
Arizona. Now people in those areas are very
unhappy about the arrangement

Story of Colorado River

Colorado River basin

The Colorado River flows through

Utah to Lake Powell, thence
through the northwest corner of
Arizona to Lake Mead. From
Hoover Dam it flows southward to
Mexico forming the border between
Nevada, California and Arizona,
and yielding major diversions to
central Arizona and southern
California. The river is the lifeblood
of the southwestern US and its
development and management
have been the focus of attention by
the member states for more than a
century. Waters of the Colorado
River System have been
apportioned by a treaty with
Mexico, compacts, and a Supreme
Court decree to the seven basin

Colorado River Compact

The Colorado River Compact of 1922 divided the use of

waters of the Colorado River System between the Upper and
Lower Colorado River Basin.
It apportioned in perpetuity to the Upper and Lower Basin,
respectively, the beneficial consumptive use of 7.5 million
acre feet (maf) of water per annum.
It also provided that the Upper Basin will not cause the flow
of the river at Lee Ferry to be depleted below an aggregate
of 75 maf for any period of ten consecutive years.
The Mexican Treaty of 1944 allotted to Mexico a guaranteed
annual quantity of 1.5 maf. These amounts, when combined,
exceed the river's long-term average annual flow.
These apportions were decided during a particularly wet
climatic period. At present, the flow in Colorado does not
add up to all the apportionments

Within Colorado water

allocations are based on
the Doctrine of Prior
Appropriation or the
First-in-Time, First-inRight Doctrine. This
doctrine is found in most
arid states because
when there is too little
water to satisfy all
users, sharing of the
remaining water would
be of little value to any
user. But a large part of
the Colorado river water
is diverted to Los
Angeles on the basis of
this doctrine


Shift water-hungry crops to regions

with more rainfall
Use drip irrigation to reduce
evaporation loss
Use pipes to reduce transport loss
Water lawns in morning and evening
or opt for no lawn
Direct storm water in recharge basins

Interbasinal transfer

Transfer water from water-surplus regions

to water-deficient regions
California : Los Angeles aqueduct moves 150
million gallons/ day from east of Sierra Nevada
to LA
New York: Water supply to NYC from Finger
Lakes region
political problems

Filtration, distillation
Expensive, limited