Simple ways everyone can act to protect groundwater
Everyone can and should do something to protect groundwater. Why? We all have a stake in maintaining its quality and quantity.
• For starters, 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground. Being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense.
• Not only that, most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater so how you impact groundwater matters.
• Furthermore, many public water systems draw all or part of their supply from groundwater, so protecting the resource protects the public water supply and impacts treatment costs.
• If you own a well to provide water for your family, farm, or business, groundwater protection is doubly important. As a well owner, you are the manager of your own water system. Protecting groundwater will help reduce risks to your water supply.
There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:
• Keeping it safe from contamination
• Using it wisely by not wasting it.
Before examining what you can do to protect groundwater, however, you should know that sometimes the quality and safety of groundwater is affected by substances that occur naturally in the environment.
Naturally occurring contamination
The chemistry of the groundwater flowing into a well reflects what’s in the environment. If the natural quality of groundwater to be used for human consumption presents a health risk, water treatment will be necessary.
Examples of naturally occurring substances that can present health risk are:
• Microorganisms (i.e., bacteria, viruses, and parasites; these tend to be more common in shallow groundwater)
• Radionuclides (i.e., radium, radon, and uranium)
• Heavy metals (i.e., arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium).
Public water systems are required to treat drinking water to federal quality standards. However, it is up to private well owners to make sure their water is safe.
Contamination caused by human activities
Human activities can pollute groundwater, and this is where every person can help protect groundwater — both in terms of groundwater quality and quantity.
Some common human causes of groundwater contamination are:
• Improper storage or disposal of hazardous substances
• Improper use of fertilizers, animal manures, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides
• Chemical spills
• Improperly built and/or maintained septic systems
• Improperly abandoned wells (these include water wells, groundwater monitoring wells, and wells used in cleaning contaminated groundwater)
• Poorly sited or constructed water we