Groundwater’s importance to the environment

I just returned from the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo in Louisville, which featured the latest technology for ensuring water quality for the 12 million U.S. households using private wells for their water supply.  These technologies also are critical to the many community water systems that rely on groundwater to meet government regulations for health, safety, and sustainability.

The Pumper & Cleaner Expo offered thousands of attendees an opportunity to see products for the liquid waste and sewer and drain cleaning industries.  Companies such as Goulds Pumps, Godwin Pumps, Ditchwitch construction equipment, Infiltrator wastewater and many others displayed innovative products with a focus on sustainability.

It’s appropriate that after a successful Pumper & Cleaner Expo that we celebrate National Ground Water Awareness Week this week.

Groundwater makes up more than 90 percent of the available fresh water globally. Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population relies on groundwater for its drinking water supply, which also feeds surface-water bodies such as rivers and lakes.

As we celebrate National Ground Water Awareness Week, here are some steps any person can take to help protect groundwater and reduce risks to the water supply, particularly if you own a household water well.

Groundwater protection

First, locate any abandoned wells on your property. Contact a qualified water well system contractor to determine whether the abandoned well has been properly decommissioned. Never dispose of any substance down an abandoned well.

Second, if you have a septic system, have it checked regularly by a qualified septic system contractor. A failing septic system may present a contamination threat to the groundwater. If you have a septic system that is no longer used, ensure that it has been properly decommissioned by a qualified septic system contractor (this will not only help public safety, it will also be needed if you sell your house).

Third, learn about and follow local ordinances for properly use, storage, and disposal of hazardous household substances, such as:

  • Gasoline and oil
  • Paints, varnishes, stains, and thinners
  • Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides
  • Cleaning products
  • Batteries, fluorescent bulbs,
  • Electronic products, such as computers, cell phones, and audio/visual devices.

 

Disposal isn’t the only thing property owners need to think about. One of the largest sources of groundwater pollution are homeowners who do not follow manufacturer instructions in the application of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. On a square-footage basis, homeowners apply more chemicals to lawns that farmers do to fields. Follow instructions on the label carefully for amounts to apply under proper weather and soil conditions. Consult with state and county extension agents or Master Gardener programs for guidance specific to your area for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers for landscaping and gardens.

Proper well location and construction

Next, if you’re planning to construct a water well, work with a qualified water well system contractor, who is familiar with state and local well-construction codes, including those pertaining to separation distances from potential contamination sources.

Regular well system maintenance

If you have an existing well, get an annual well system maintenance checkup to reduce risks to your water supply and prevent costly and inconvenient breakdowns. An inspection should check for:

  • Equipment to determine if it is sanitary and meets local codes
  • Flow rate
  • Water level
  • Pump performance
  • Pressure tank
  • Pressure switch contacts.

Water testing and treatment

One of a well owner’s most important responsibilities is to regularly test the water. A dirty well, for instance is one with accumulated sediment or debris in the bottom, can create an environment suitable to bacterial growth and impair effective disinfection.  A clean well makes for a healthy well.

What are you doing to promote healthy groundwater and National Ground Water Awareness Week?