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Reflecting on National Groundwater Awareness Week

POSTED UNDER Energy & Conservation

“When the well runs dry, we shall know the value of water.”
– Benjamin Franklin

There is a seemingly endless list of national week or month celebrations. We take most of them with a grain of salt, but March 6-12 this year is National Groundwater Awareness Week. What makes the awareness of groundwater more important than ever is the recent notable impacts groundwater (or lack thereof) has had on us this past year.

To start, there’s an ongoing massive drought in California, with an accompanying state of emergency declared by the governor in January 2015. And more recently, in January 2016, President Obama declared a state of emergency in the city of Flint, MI, after high levels of lead were found in the water system.

While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. On top of that, it’s estimated that 99 percent of this freshwater is groundwater.

To say that groundwater is a resource we should cherish is an understatement – it plays a vital role on our environment and our survival. We use so much of this resource per day at a national level that it’s actually measured as billion gallons of groundwater a day (bgd). Groundwater doesn’t only serve us as a source for drinking water, but it plays a vital role in the irrigation of our agriculture.

We use:

  • 76 bgd for all purposes
  • 49.5 bgd for agricultural irrigation
  • 15.7 bgd for public water supplies
  • 3.5 bgd for individual households through privately owned water wells
  • 3 bgd for livestock and aquaculture
  • 2.9 bgd for industry (self-supplied)
  • 1.1 bgd for mining
  • Nearly 600 million gallons per day for thermoelectric power generation

Now that we’ve laid out the importance of groundwater, the question becomes what can we do to help? The most efficient and impactful way everyone can make a difference is to conserve water. Here are some quick tips to conserve water at home:

  • Fix the Drip: Check faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks
  • Reduce Consumption: Install water saving shower heads and low flow faucet aerators
  • Don’t Let It Run: Take shorter showers and turn off the water when you brush your teeth
  • Wash Smarter: Only run your washing machine and dishwasher on full loads

Second, protect groundwater resources by educating yourself on the role groundwater plays on our planet and your life – especially in your state or region. Here are some things you can do to protect our watersheds:

  • Reduce chemical use in your home and lawn
  • Responsibly dispose of hazardous wastes such as oils, paints and pharmaceuticals
  • Use native plants in your landscape which require less fertilizer

Even though we can’t see groundwater, we need to believe in its power as a natural resource – and respect it.