US Geological Survey




Date of this Version



Hydrogeol J (2017) 25:1779–1793


Copyright The Author(s) 2017.

This article is an open access publication

DOI 10.1007/s10040-017-1593-1


Hydrologic budgets to determine groundwater availability are important tools for water-resource managers. One challenging component for developing hydrologic budgets is quantifying water use through time because historical and site-specific water-use data can be sparse or poorly documented. This research developed a groundwater-use record for the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system (central USA) from 1900 to 2010 that related county-level aggregated water-use data to site-specific well locations and aquifer units. A simple population-based linear model, constrained to 0 million liters per day in 1900, provided the best means to extrapolate groundwater-withdrawal rates pre-1950s when there was a paucity of water-use data. To disaggregate county-level data to individual wells across a regional aquifer system, a programmatic hierarchical process was developed, based on the level of confidence that a well pumped groundwater for a specific use during a specific year. Statistical models tested on a subset of the best-available site-specific water-use data provided a mechanism to bracket historic groundwater use, such that groundwater-withdrawal rates ranged, on average, plus or minus 38% from modeled values. Groundwater withdrawn for public supply and domestic use accounted for between 48 and 74% of total groundwater use since 1901, highlighting that groundwater provides an important drinking-water resource. The compilation, analysis, and spatial and temporal extrapolation of water-use data remain a challenging task for water scientists, but is of paramount importance to better quantify groundwater use and availability.