Skip to main content
1924 Geologic Map of Arizona

Calculating the value of geologic maps to human society – no simple matter

Geologic maps portray the rock surficial units and structural features – bed orientation (strike and dip), faults, folds, deformational fabrics – exposed at the Earth’s surface. These maps are the products of state geological surveys, the U.S. Geological Survey, and geoscientists in academia and industry. They are valuable tools for geologists, hydrogeologists, structural engineers, urban planners, ecologists, environmental scientists, government agencies and institutions, and the emergency management community in addressing the broad range of applications to societal needs, including: geohazard assessment; mineral exploration; resource assessment; groundwater assessment, tectonics; geologic history; infrastructure siting and construction; road building; energy exploration; education and recreation, and more.

In the United States, geologic maps produced by state geological surveys and the USGS are ‘common goods’; i.e., “material, cultural or institutional—that the members of a community provide to all members in order to fulfill a relational obligation they all have to care for certain interests that they have in common.” (Source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy;

As valuable as geologic maps are to human society, funding for new mapping is limited. Most of the new mapping is being done by state geologic surveys, which rely primarily on the STATEMAP portion of the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program for funding (matched dollar-for-dollar by the states) to do detailed- and intermediate-scale geologic mapping in several areas each year. Specific areas are identified in consultation with State Mapping Advisory Committees composed of geologists representing private industry, state and federal agencies, and academia. A 7.5’ quadrangle covers between 50 to 70 square miles; there are ~2,000 7.5’ quadrangles in Arizona, and the majority lack the geologic detail provided by 1:24k mapping. In order to accelerate the pace of mapping coverage, there is new emphasis on intermediate-scale (1:100k or 1:250k) geologic mapping that conforms to the latest digital standards.

AASG Geologic Map Survey.   Last week the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) launched an online survey to measure the intrinsic and dollar ($) value of geologic maps to America’s geosciences community in addressing the needs of their communities. AZGS Director and State Geologist Phil Pearthree has called on members of Arizona’s geosciences and geotechnical communities to complete the survey.

The AASG will use these data to study the uses and value (potential benefits) of geological maps in the United States. 'Any data that you provide could be used by the Association of American State Geologists and various state geological surveys, as well as incorporated into publications of the results.’

For more information and to participate in the survey, visit ‘Assessing the nationwide economic benefits of geologic mapping

Online Resources