USDA Forest Service Resource Information Group

Groundwater Technical Guide Development Program

Outside urban areas, 98 percent of the nation's domestic water supply is provided by groundwater, much of which originates on National Forest System (NFS) lands. Half or more of the nation's water supply may be dependent, at least in part, on groundwater originating from NFS lands through natural discharge to lakes, streams, and wetlands or through subsurface flow. The significant dependency of communities and ecosystems on NFS groundwater resources elevates the need to consider consequences to groundwater resources in agency decisions.

Departmental and agency policy require consideration and integration of groundwater resources into agency decision making. Groundwater inventory and monitoring data supports incorporation of groundwater resources into climate change vulnerability assessments and forest planning; the identification of groundwater values at risk in support of risk management assessments; identification of community relationships and collaborative opportunities for stewardship of groundwater resources; and identification of community groundwater dependency for watershed restoration priority setting.

Consideration of groundwater and groundwater data in agency decisions augments and supports public information regarding the importance of groundwater and watershed conservation; facilitates the ability to collaborate effectively at larger geographic scales to conserve and restore groundwater and surface water resources; provides the ability to demonstrate groundwater relationships in landscape conservation and adaptive management with respect to climate change; assists in integrating conservation efforts in partnership with communities dependent on NFS groundwater resources; and for identifying restoration opportunities that can be accomplished through community-based partnerships and restoration jobs.

Development Objective: Provide agency staff guidance and recommendations on how to acquire, analyze, and apply high quality groundwater resource data and information to inform management decisions.

Partnerships: Technical guide development will continue the collaborative relationship built with The Nature Conservancy during the production of the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Inventory Field Guides (GTR-WO-86a and GTR-WO-86b, March 2012). TNC is an engaged and involved partner in the technical guides, demonstrating their commitment to helping to improve the management of NFS groundwater resources. Collaboration with agency staff from the US Geological Survey and Environmental Protection Agency will ensure proposed Forest Service methods, data standards and guidance are consistent with and use standards developed by these key partners.

Development Plan

The technical development program is organized around two primary Technical Guides and integrates complementary technical guidance and methods developed by other agencies and partners.

Development and publication of the Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide addressing the foundations of groundwater inventory, monitoring, and assessment, groundwater and groundwater dependent ecosystem inventory, groundwater monitoring methods, and analysis and assessment methods for groundwater resources. Target date for publication: 2016. Supporting field and method guides include:

  • The Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Inventory Field Guides (GTR-WO-86a and 86b, March 2012) provide detailed inventory and data collection procedures for use in planning and assessment (Level I) and project design and analysis (Level II).
  • Publication of twelve of Groundwater Technical Notes describing standard groundwater inventory and monitoring procedures. Target date for publication: 2016.
  • Hydrogeologic Tables Data Dictionary for Hydrogeologic Tables related to Geologic Map Unit Feature Class: Supplement to the Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring & Assessment Technical Guide.
  • Data Dictionary for Hydro Ecosystem Observation (springs and wetlands) Feature Classes: A Data Management Supplement to the Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring & Assessment Technical Guide and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems: Level 1 and II Inventory Field Guides.

Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide

The Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide is being developed as part of an agency-wide effort to develop technical guidance to support stewardship of groundwater resources within the National Forest System (NFS) and to facilitate landscape conservation partnerships with other agencies and organizations. This Technical Guide is part of a series of technical, field and methods guides being developed to support the Forest Service's groundwater program.

Update: Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide Development

The internal Forest Service and partner review of the draft Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide (IM&A Technical Guide), concluded on March 21, 2014. Thank you for taking time to submit comments on the draft IM&A Technical guide, proposed changes to the Forest Service GIS Data Dictionary and geodatabase design, and Forest Service Application Dependency Assessment. Your comments and suggested edits will assist the development team with strengthening the content and organization of the IM&A Technical Guide.

The Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide will be published as a General Technical Report and should be available in an electronic and hard-copy format in 2016.

Update: Data Dictionary for Hydro Ecosystem Observation Feature Class - Supplement to the Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring & assessment Technical Guide

Hydro-Ecosystem Observation consists of two feature classes (Point and Polygon) for recording the location and basic information about springs and wetlands. The point layer captures all identified springs and the polygon layer captures wetlands and springs of large extent.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) endorsed standard for springs captured in the point layer is the Geographic Information Framework Data Content Standard Part 6: Hydrography that has been implemented by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD).

The FGDC endorsed standard for wetlands captured in the polygon layer is the Wetlands Mapping Standard which has been implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI). This standard is based on the Cowardin Classification System (Cowardin et al. 1979).

The layers in this supplement to the technical guide and field guides serve as the foundation for incorporating and updating NHD and NWI data with updated locations and attributes. Additional attributes are provided to meet Forest Service needs and to incorporate data from local observation and other sources

Update: Data Dictionary for Hydrogeologic Tables related to Geologic Map Unit Feature Class: Supplement to the Groundwater Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Technical Guide

The tables defined in this data dictionary link relate to the feature attribute table of a geologic map unit feature class representing an area of interest. The combination of linked tables linked to the feature class helps geologists and hydrologists identify and map hydrogeologic units as aquifers or confining units and identify and map aquifers vulnerable to contamination. Identification of hydrogeologic units and vulnerable aquifers is the starting point for conducting analyses of groundwater flow in an area of interest. A hydrogeologic link field is added to the feature class to create table relationships.

Technical Guide to Managing Groundwater Resources (Revision)

Revision of the Technical Guide to Managing Groundwater Resources (FS-881, May 2007) to address emerging groundwater management issues, incorporate new science and technology, and remove overlapping content and coordinate information presented with the documents described above. This version uses a risk management system to improve communication and the land manager’s awareness of their ability to protect and conserve socially and economically significant groundwater systems and resources. This revision also reflects changes in Departmental and agency policies regarding groundwater resource management since the publication of the 2007 technical guide, including changes and updates in policy and procedures for land management planning (2012 Planning Rule; 36 CFR Part 219) and Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures (36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 220). Target date for publication: Review Draft – 2016.

Additional method or field guides addressing groundwater resource management issues may be identified during this development effort.

Update: Technical Guide to Managing Groundwater Resources

A core team and steering team have been established and are working toward completing a draft of the technical guide by spring 2016.

Supporting Documents

Business Requirements Analysis

Project Charter and Organization

Briefing Papers

Project Management

Steering Team Materials

Core Team Materials

USDA Forest Service
Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC)
1400 Independence Ave.
Mailstop: 1104
Washington, DC 20250-1104

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Last modified: Monday, 14-Aug-2017 14:07:30 CDT