What You Should Know About Groundwater

From coast to coast, we serve numerous public and private clients that rely on clean groundwater. Unfortunately, what we’ve observed through our client-driven projects is that our nation’s groundwater supplies are under increasing threat. This National Groundwater Awareness Week, we think it’s important to be aware of these risks and to understand the significance of this resource in our lives.

Cherry Creek Diversion Pump Station in Douglas County, Colorado
Cherry Creek Diversion Pump Station in Douglas County, Colorado

Depletion and Contamination

The most common threat to groundwater is over-pumping, which can exhaust the water table, the level where the ground is saturated with water. If water table levels decline too far, then owners will have to deepen their well, drill a new one, or lower their pump. As wells deepen, the cost of using this resource will increase and may become prohibitively expensive.

Another hazard to clean groundwater is the deterioration of water quality. Much of the deep groundwater, often below sea level, is saline and has the potential to contaminate clean groundwater. This can occur when it’s pumped and may cause saltwater to migrate inland and upwards. Other risks include surface contamination in the form of bacteria and viruses from failing septic systems, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides.

Dependence and Investment

It’s vital to protect our groundwater from these threats because of our nation’s reliance on it as a resource. Here are some statistics about consumption in the U.S. to consider:

  • More than one-quarter of all fresh water used in the U.S. is pumped directly from groundwater sources
  • Collectively, our nation alone has almost $80 billion invested in groundwater pumping equipment
  • In the U.S., there are almost 40,000 community groundwater systems, excluding the hundreds of thousands of private well systems
  • More than 90 million people in the U.S. rely on groundwater for their drinking water

We controlled, detected, and prevented environmental issues involving groundwater exceedances for Danville, Virginia.
We controlled, detected, and prevented environmental issues involving groundwater exceedances for Danville, Virginia.

What You Can Do

As individuals, we can contribute to maintaining and revitalizing our nation's groundwater reserves. These simple considerations will help this resource remain viable and sustainable:

  • Use high-efficiency water saving devices in your home whenever possible
  • Store or dispose of hazardous materials safely to prevent toxic spills
  • If you own or operate a farm or concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), avoid over-fertilizing and excessive use of herbicides and pesticides
  • If your residence uses an on-site septic system, have it checked regularly and keep it properly maintained

Protecting Your Drinking Water

Most municipalities already have wellhead protection programs in place. These programs guard our drinking water sources, like groundwater, against contaminants. Water service providers expend a great deal of time and effort to ensure their groundwater wells are located, constructed, and decommissioned in a safe fashion. We remain committed to our clients’ goal of delivering clean drinking water to their communities through our state-of-the-art modeling, water-supply planning, and developing of wellhead protection programs. This National Groundwater Awareness Week, we hope to have increased your appreciation for this important resource.

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