Celebrating National Groundwater Awareness Week

As we wrap up another successful celebration of National Groundwater Awareness Week, we wanted to share some critical stats on groundwater and steps we can all take to help protect groundwater and reduce risks to the water supply — particularly if you own a household water well.

Forty-four percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater, the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rock and sand, for its drinking water supply — either from a public source or private well. In rural areas, the number is 96 percent. But groundwater is important to us in many other ways, as well. Did you know?

  • Groundwater makes up more than 90 percent of the available fresh water globally and 44 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.
  • Groundwater provides much of the flow of many streams; often lakes and streams are “windows” to the water table. Groundwater adds 492 billion gallons per day to U.S. surface water bodies. In large part, the flow in a stream represents water that has flowed from the ground into the stream channel.
  • The United States uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public supply, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and other purposes.
  • Irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States, 67.2 percent of all the groundwater pumped each day. Some 53.5 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from more than 407,913 wells. Irrigation is a major reason for the abundance of fresh produce and grains that we all enjoy.

Groundwater protection

It’s a good idea for everyone to know about, and follow local ordinances, for the proper 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.

But, disposal isn’t the only thing property owners need to think about. One of the largest sources of groundwater pollution is 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 than farmers do to fields.

There are simple steps that will help protect groundwater and the well systems that distribute it.

  • Always use licensed or certified water well drillers and pump installers when a well is constructed or serviced, or when the pump is installed or serviced.
  • Keep hazardous materials away from any well. Never dump such materials, motor oil, or anything else that could impact water quality onto the land surface, into a hole or pit, or into a surface water supply.

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

To find out more on a healthy groundwater supply and National Ground Water Awareness Week visit www.wellowner.org and www.wellcarehotline.org