Statement of Task

The proposed study will provide an overview of some of the research and education needs and priorities concerning sustainable underground storage1 technology and implementation. It will also assess geological, geochemical, biological, engineering, and institutional factors that may affect the performance of such projects, based in part on a review and evaluation of existing projects.

Specifically, the study will assess and make recommendations with respect to research and education needs on the following questions:

  • What research needs to be done to develop predictors of performance for underground storage projects based on the character of the recharge water in terms of contaminants, disinfectants, and microbes, the hydrogeology and major ion geochemistry of the source water and the aquifer, and the well or basin characteristics?

  • What are the long-term impacts of underground storage on aquifer use—hydraulic, geotechnical, geochemical, adsorptive capacity of contaminants—at wellhead and regional scales, and can these impacts be ameliorated?

  • What physical, chemical, and geological factors associated with underground storage of water may increase or decrease human and environmental health risks concerning microbes, inorganic contaminants such as nitrite, disinfectant by-products, endocrine disruptors, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and other trace organic compounds?

  • Are there any chemical markers or surrogates that can be used to help assure regulators and the public of the safety of water for groundwater recharge? What should we monitor and at what spatial and temporal scales?

  • What are the challenges and potential for incorporating sustainable underground storage projects into current systems approaches to water management for solving public and environmental water needs?

  • How do the institutional, regulatory and legal environments at federal, state, and local levels encourage or discourage sustainable underground storage?

expertise in groundwater and surface water hydrology, inorganic and organic hydrogeochemistry and biogeochemistry, risk assessment, environmental and water resources engineering, water reuse, and natural resource economics and law.

The potentially widespread implication of the study is apparent in its sponsors, which represent water utilities, water associations, federal and state agencies, and science organizations: the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, the WateReuse Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the CALFED Bay-Delta Program and the California Department of Water Resources Conjunctive Water Management Branch, the City of Phoenix, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, the Chino Basin Watermaster, and the NRC President's Committee of the National Academies.


In this report the term “managed underground storage” is used instead of “sustainable underground storage.”

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