Save the date!
Protect Your Groundwater Day takes place on September 3. 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.
In the weeks leading up to PYGWD, NGWA encourages everyone to become official “groundwater protectors” by taking steps to conserve and protect the resource. Businesses, individuals, educators, students, federal agencies, cities, associations, and everyone in between can ask to be added to our groundwater protector list through our website or on social media. Have a great story to tell? Great! Send it our way and we may highlight your efforts.
August is also National Water Quality Month, providing an additional opportunity to get educated and spread the good word about protecting groundwater.
For more information, view our Protect Your Groundwater Day Communications Toolkit (pdf).
Click here to download social media graphics.
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:
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).
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.
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. EPA.
Depending on where in the country you live, outdoor water use can vary widely.
ACT — acknowledge, consider, take action
On Protect Your Groundwater Day, 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
- There are common to households
- Most household water use occurs in a few areas around the home.
- If you own a water well
2. Consider which apply to you
- 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
- 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
Approximately 132 million Americans rely on groundwater for drinking water. It is used for irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and several additional purposes, making it one of the most widely used and valuable natural resources we have. Consider the following facts:
- Americans use 79.6 billion gallons of groundwater each day.
- Groundwater is 20 to 30 times larger than all U.S. lakes, streams, and rivers combined.
- 44 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply.
- More than 13.2 million households have their own well, representing 34 million people.