Forest Service Groundwater Program
The Forest Service Groundwater Program is an integral component of fulfilling the Agency’s stewardship responsibility for water resource on National Forests and Grasslands. Groundwater is a critical component of the hydrologic cycle and is important in sustaining groundwater-dependent ecosystems, such as perennial streams, springs, riparian areas, and wetlands, that support biodiversity on many forests and grasslands.
Proposed Forest Service Directive on Groundwater
On May 7, 2014, the Forest Service published a proposed directive addressing groundwater resources on National Forest System lands for public comment. The original comment period was for 90 days. It was extended for two additional 30-day periods, on August 1, 2014, and September 4, 2014. The comment period closed on October 3, 2014. The Forest Service will be analyzing the comments received during the comment period and the input from Tribes, developing responses to the comments, and developing a revised directive. The agency anticipates determining the path forward for the directives in late spring or early summer 2015.
Overview of Proposed Directive
The Forest Service proposes to amend its internal Agency directives for Watershed and Air Management to establish direction for management of groundwater resources on National Forest System (NFS) lands as an integral component of watershed management. Specifically, the proposed amendment would provide direction on the consideration of groundwater resources in agency activities, approvals, and authorizations; encourage source water protection and water conservation; establish procedures for reviewing new proposals for groundwater withdrawals on NFS lands; require the evaluation of potential impacts from groundwater withdrawals on NFS resources; and provide for measurement and reporting for some larger groundwater withdrawals.
- News Release
- Federal Register Notice (published May 6, 2014)
- Proposed Groundwater Management Directive (Forest Service Manual Chapter 2560 – Groundwater Resource Management)
- Highlights for understanding the purpose and significance of the proposed groundwater management directive
- Answers to frequently asked questions about groundwater resources
- New! Expanded set of Q&As--based on the more common questions we have been receiving
- Federal Register Notice (Vol. 79, No. 148, Friday, August 1, 2014)
- Official News Release: "Forest Service extends groundwater directive public comment period"
- Federal Register Notice (Vol. 79, No. 171, Thursday, September 4, 2014)
The Forest Service hosted national webinars on May 20, 2014 and August 5, 2014 to discuss the components of the proposed policy to manage groundwater resources on the country’s national forests and grasslands. Forest Service leaders and technical specialists provided an overview on groundwater issues and information on the intent of the agency’s directives. Recordings and/or slide shows are available as follows:
Webinar conducted May 20, 2014
View a recording of the May 20, 2014 webinar HERE.
View the slides from the May 20, 2014 webinar HERE.
Webinar conducted August 5, 2014
View a recording of the August 5, 2014 webinar HERE
Key points of the proposed directive
THE PROPOSED DIRECTIVE WILL
- Provide for consideration of groundwater resources in agency activities.
- Encourage source water protection and water conservation.
- Establish procedures for reviewing new proposals for groundwater withdrawals on NFS land.
- Require the evaluation of potential impacts from groundwater withdrawals on NFS natural resources.
- Provide for measurement and reporting to help build our understanding of groundwater resources on NFS land.
THE PROPOSED DIRECTIVE WILL NOT
- Affect procedures or impose any new conditions on state-issued water rights.
- Affect existing or future tribal water rights settlements or water compacts.
- Impose any new regulations or requirements on locatable, leasable, geothermal, or mineral material operations.
- Change the way state water quality regulations or tribal water quality standards are promulgated or administered.
- Give the Forest Service any new authorities.
The Forest Service welcomes public comment on its goal to create a comprehensive, consistent and effective approach to managing groundwater resources to meet the needs of communities and to ensure long-term benefits to people and ecosystems.
- Comments on the proposed directive will be considered in development of the final directive.
- The Forest Service received more than 250 public comments from across the country during the comment period.
- The Forest Service will be processing comments, developing responses, and modifying the proposed directive through the first half of 2015.
- Technical Guide to Managing Ground Water Resources (.pdf)
- Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Level I Inventory Field Guide: Inventory Methods for Assessment and Planning (GTRWO-86a)
- Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Level II Inventory Field Guide: Inventory Methods for Project Design and Analysis (GTRWO-86b)