Protect Your Groundwater Day

September 5, 2023

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

Every year, we ask our communities to promote and protect their groundwater supply and this year we are urging you to focus these efforts in your own backyard.

Ask yourself, when was the last time I tested my water? What actions have I taken to ensure my family’s water is safe and protected from contaminants? More than 43 million people—about 15 percent of the U.S. population—rely on domestic water wells as their source of drinking water and experts recommend having these systems inspected every year.

Protect Your Groundwater Day serves as an annual reminder for water well owners to test, tend, and treat their private water systems. The FGWA and NGWA encourages annual inspections of private water systems by certified water well contractors to ensure systems are operating correctly and producing safe and healthy water.

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 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 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, the FGWA in partnership with the 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:
    • Modify your water use (more water saving tips).
  • If you own a water well

For more information and resources please visit this webpage.