The issue of freshwater availability and sustainability is gaining importance within U.S. federal and state governments. For example, a recent report by the U.S. National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) urges the federal government to take new steps to understand freshwater sustainability in the United States [NSTC, 2004]. Although the report refers to ‘availability’—a concept that in the past has applied only to human needs and that implies that a resource may decline or be liquidated—the focus of the report is on ‘sustainability’ as commonly defined in the literature today. Sustainability requires that consumption will not cause a decline or liquidation of freshwater resources. Today, the water needs of both the natural environment and human activity must be balanced. To attain this balance, freshwater sustainability must be quantified and then compared with the needs of humans and nature. To quantify freshwater sustainability, this article proposes a new programmatic initiative of multiscale water resources mapping based on the framework of Earth systems that includes the biological, geological, and atmospheric systems.
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