Friday, September 4, 2015

Protect Your Groundwater Day is Sept. 8

by Lynne Geller, communications and outreach, Water Resources Program

Amidst all the holidays on your calendar, be sure not to overlook September 8: Protect Your Groundwater Day. Since we don’t see it (groundwater is water under the ground), it can be easy to overlook. But did you know that 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground?

It is not overstating to say that protecting our groundwater is essential to the health and well-being of people and the environment. If there is one thing our statewide drought is teaching us, it is not to take water for granted. Being a good steward of groundwater, every day, just makes sense.

And in case you need more reasons to care about groundwater:

  • Most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater, so your impacts on groundwater can have far-reaching effects. By late summer, most of the water we see in streams is from groundwater.
  • 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.


The two sides of groundwater protection

There are two fundamental approaches to protecting our groundwater. We can all help maintain its quality and quantity by:
  • Keeping it safe from contamination (water quality)
  • Using it wisely by not wasting it (water quantity).

How we contribute to groundwater contamination

Human activities can pollute groundwater, and this is where each of us can help protect it. This pollution is preventable with proper care. Some of the most common culprits of groundwater contamination include:
  1. Improper use of fertilizers, animal manures and pesticides
  2. Improperly built or poorly located and/or maintained septic systems
  3. Leaking or abandoned underground storage tanks
  4. Improperly abandoned water wells
  5. Stormwater drains that discharge chemicals to groundwater
  6. Improper disposal of hazardous household wastes
Some contaminants are naturally occurring in the environment and therefore are naturally found in groundwater. These must be addressed through water treatment rather than groundwater protection.

What well owners can do to protect groundwater

There are 5 key strategies that you can start today that will protect your family, neighbors and community from contaminated groundwater.
  1. Maintain your well
  2. Test your water
  3. Get a properly constructed well system
  4. Use property best practices
  5. Assess and respond to impacts from natural disasters.
Ecology manages well construction, licensing and reporting statewide. Another great resource for well owners is here.


Conserve water -- don’t waste it
Household leaks can waste more than
1 trillion gallons annually nationwide. 

ECOconnect blogs have been covering water conservation practices and ideas for a while now. So for this article, let’s approach water conservation in a slightly different way.

1. Especially with Washington’s 2015 drought, we are all becoming more aware of how important it is to use water wisely. But how do you know if you are doing a good or a poor job of not wasting water? Give your home water use a closer look by using a water calculator. It just takes a minute or two.

2. Look at your results, particularly in the areas of intensive water  use in your household, such as the bathroom or outdoor water use. (Bathroom water uses make up an average of ¾ of all indoor water use.) Where do you use water the most? Understanding this can provide hints on where the most water can be conserved. The internet is full of good tips.

3. Also consider whether you can save on consumption by installing a water-saving appliance or fixture, particularly in areas of the most intensive water use. Choose products that are water and energy efficient such as those designated by the U.S. EPA’s Water Sense program.


Ecology's mission to protect water supplies

Managing our water is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. One of Ecology’s priorities is to protect our water supplies, which we work on diligently and energetically day in and day out. A close look at the many activities we are involved with can be found throughout our website, including:

Protecting our water supplies with links to varied water topics including drought, water supply, and shorelands management

Groundwater is one of Washington’s most vital natural resources with links to all things groundwater including groundwater use, quality, and assessment and data

Groundwater assessment with links to our groundwater data system, and publications and technical resources.

So on this day, September 8

Protect Your Groundwater Day may not have all the bells and whistles of Thanksgiving or the December holidays. But groundwater is essential to our lives. The National Groundwater Association encourages you to use Sept. 8 to begin doing your part for protecting one of our most important natural resources. ACT: acknowledge, consider, and take action.

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