Protect Your Groundwater Day

PYGWD 2019


Save the date!

We all rely on groundwater in some way, and groundwater relies on us to protect it.

Protect Your Groundwater Day takes place on September 1, 2020. PYGWD is an annual observance established to highlight the responsible development, management, and use of groundwater. The event is also a platform to encourage yearly water well testing and well maintenance.

Check out the Groundwater Foundation's tools for engaging the next generation of groundwater professionals, including the Awesome Aquifer Kit.

Groundwater facts and figures

In 1986, Congress enacted Safe Drinking Water Act amendments requiring states to develop Wellhead Protection Programs to maintain high quality drinking water by preventing contaminants from reaching underground drinking water sources supplying public community water systems. All states have these programs. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wellhead Protection Program. is a one-stop resource for information relating to private water well systems and groundwater, including protecting your well and water source, and can be reached online at or by calling 855-420-9355. This online service can help you find a qualified water well services contractor. (Source:

More than 43 million people — about 15 percent of the U.S. population — rely on domestic (private) wells as their source of drinking water. The quality and safety of water from domestic wells are not regulated by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act or, in most cases, by state laws. Instead, individual homeowners are responsible for maintaining their domestic well systems and for monitoring water quality. (Source: USGS. Domestic [Private] Supply Wells.

Well owners should test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and any contaminants of local concern. More frequent testing should be considered if there is a change in the taste, odor, or appearance of the well water, or if a problem occurs such as a broken well. (Source: National Ground Water Association. Well Testing.

One of the most common sources of well water contamination is a failed septic tank or septic system. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Well Siting and Potential Contaminants. The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. How to care for your septic system.

WaterSense-labeled products and services are certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy, and perform as well as or better than regular models. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About WaterSense.

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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.

Groundwater protection

There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:

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, parasites, which 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 toprivate 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 wells.

Water conservation

Americans are the largest water users, per capita, in the world. In terms of groundwater, Americans use 79.6 billion gallons per day — the equivalent of 2,923 12-oz. cans for every man, woman, and child in the nation.

Agricultural irrigation is far and away the largest user of groundwater in America at 53.5 billion gallons a day followed by public use via public water systems or private household wells at a combined total of 18.3 billion gallons per day. More of water in either of these areas could save a huge amount.

At the household level, the greatest amount of water used inside the home occurs in the bathroom. The remainder of indoor water use is divided between clothes washing and kitchen use, including dish washing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Depending on where in the country you live, outdoor water use can vary widely.

ACT — acknowledge, consider, take action

On PYGWD, NGWA urges you to ACT. Use this day to begin doing your part for protecting one of our most important natural resources — groundwater.

1. Acknowledge the causes of preventable groundwater contamination

  • Everyone
    • These are common to households
    • Most household water use occurs in a few areas around the home.
  • If you own a water well
    • Wellheads should be a safe distance from potential contamination
    • Septic system malfunctions can pollute groundwater
    • Poorly constructed or maintained wells can facilitate contamination
    • Improperly abandoned wells can lead to groundwater contamination.

2. Consider which apply to you

  • Everyone
    • What specific hazardous substances are in and around your home?
    • Where do you and your family use the most water?
  • If you own a water well
    • Is your wellhead a safe distance from possible contamination?Is your well/septic system due for an inspection?
    • Are there any abandoned wells on your property?

3. Take action to prevent groundwater contamination

  • Everyone
    • When it comes to hazardous household substances:
      • Store them properly in a secure place
      • Use them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations
      • Dispose of them safely.
    • When it comes to water conservation:
  • If you own a water well