Groundwater is often misunderstood. So what exactly is it and where does it come from? One could start at any point in the water cycle. Let’s say we start with rain and melted snow seeping into the ground. Water collects in small pockets in between sand, gravel and the earth underground. This water beneath the surface is known as groundwater and can travel, be absorbed by plants and evaporate into the atmosphere, open into bodies of water, or be pumped to the surface.
Here are some common myths about this precious natural resource.
Groundwater has few uses.
- Fact: Groundwater can be cleaned and/or filtered and used for many purposes including public and private water supplies, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, or thermoelectric power.
Groundwater is not a significant source of water supply.
- Fact: Only 1% of water on the earth is usable, 99% of which is groundwater! Additionally, at any given moment, groundwater is 20 to 30 times greater than the amount in all the lakes, streams, and rivers of the United States.
Groundwater is abundantly available, therefore does not need to be conserved.
- Fact: In arid and semiarid regions, the rate of groundwater pumping can be higher than the rate of replenishment, resulting in serious problems of groundwater mining. Adequate time is needed to allow replenishment of underlying groundwater reservoirs (aquifers); also such areas must be properly managed in order to prevent water-soluble waste products stored in these areas from infiltrating and polluting the underground supply.
Groundwater moves rapidly.
- Fact: Groundwater normally happens slowly through spaces between particles of earth or rock. Rates are measured in feet per day/month or year (can be as slow as 1 foot per decade!), where in contrast, rivers and streams are measured in feet per second or hour.
Groundwater can become contaminated in many ways by both homeowners and businesses. Next time you dispose of your unused medicine down the toilet, are standing at the gas pump, or are #THINKing about where to put your old chemicals, remember groundwater and keep it safe!