March 5 through 11 is National Groundwater Awareness Week. The annual observance, established in 1999, is designed to bring awareness to the responsible management, development, and use of the vital natural resource, including promoting policies affecting its supply and quality.
More than 44% of Americans count on groundwater as their primary source, including 99% of rural Americans. It’s crucial that more people are aware of the critical issues affecting this necessity that so many people use for everything from drinking to irrigation, manufacturing to feeding livestock.
The U.S. uses 82.3 billion gallons of water daily. Much of it is groundwater present beneath the surface of the land, filling the empty spaces around rocks and in the soil. It essentially runs everyday life and 42% of farming operations nationwide. Even some cities, like San Antonio, TX, operate fully on groundwater.
With nearly half of the country using groundwater, it’s essential that it’s safe and used sustainably. This national observance encourages an annual safety test for wells and an inspection for leaks.
Even a small household leak can add up to more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted annually.
Simple inspections check for cracks, ensure the well’s longevity, and protect the entire property. Additionally, it rules out any quality issues that could present serious health risks to anyone using or drinking the water.
Sponsored by the National Groundwater Association (NGWA), the week’s goal is for people to not only test their water but protect and conserve it. There are many ways to protect it, including using non-toxic household cleaners, properly disposing of unused prescriptions, not flushing paint and motor oil down the toilet or drain, and using native plants in your yard.
Some ways to conserve groundwater include limiting showers and baths, installing conservation plumbing, and wetting your lawn only when needed and during the coolest part of the day.
The week is also about encouraging more people to work in the groundwater industry. Whether it’s as a technology supplier, hydrogeologist, policy advocate, or contractor, there are numerous opportunities in the field. To address the current shortage of professionals, NGWA has partnered with Oklahoma State University to develop tools to bring more people to the industry.
As the global population continues to grow, more and more demand will be placed on groundwater. Being aware of the importance of its sustainability is critical to the future of the food supply and safe, clean drinking water for everyone.