The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) is recognizing Groundwater Awareness Week, March 10-16, by emphasizing the importance of groundwater to communities as well as the actions Kentuckians can take to protect this vital natural resource.
Groundwater is the water from rain or other precipitation that soaks into the ground and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in soils and rocks. It is an abundant natural resource and makes up 90 percent of all the freshwater in the world.
About half of the U.S. population receives its drinking water from the groundwater in wells. In Kentucky, an estimated 1.2 million people are served by 185 public water systems that rely on groundwater in whole or as part of their source. An additional 250,000 rural Kentuckians rely on private wells or springs for their drinking water.
“It’s important to remember that groundwater is a local resource and that local people are the ones who can choose whether to conserve, protect or pollute it,” said DOW Director Sandy Gruzesky. “We all need to actively participate in protecting our groundwater.”
Protection of this resource is crucial to Kentucky’s economy, public health and the environment, and we can all contribute to maintaining both the quality and quantity of groundwater, Gruzesky said.
As groundwater moves through the soils, it picks up various minerals as well as pollutants. Since everything that goes on the land eventually winds up in the water, we need to be mindful of what we put on or in the ground. Activities with the potential to contaminate groundwater include:
- Failing and improper use of septic tanks
- Leaking underground and above-ground storage tanks
- Excessive application of fertilizer on fields and lawns
- Pet waste
- Leaching nitrates from animal feeding operations and other agricultural activities
- Improper disposal of hazardous substances
- Old, improperly designed landfills
- Illegal disposal of trash and animal remains, especially in sinkholes
Kentucky’s Groundwater Protection Program requires the development and implementation of a protection plan by anyone conducting activities that have the potential to pollute groundwater. Each plan is to include pollution prevention measures.
The Wellhead Protection Program requires public water supplies relying on groundwater to delineate the recharge area of the well or spring from which it draws its water, identify potential contaminant sources in this area and implement groundwater protection strategies for these areas.
For well owners, check your well annually and treat your well for contaminants. An annual checkup by a qualified water well contractor is the best way to ensure problem-free service and quality water. Preventive maintenance is usually less costly than emergency maintenance and it can prolong the life of your well and related equipment.
In Kentucky, the DOW Groundwater Section helps protect private water wells by regulating the construction of water wells through the Drillers Certification Program. Only certified drillers should be used to drill your wells.
Publications on safe and natural household cleaning products are available through your county extension office. Always dispose of toxic products such as paint or used engine oil properly. Contact your city hall for information about the location of safe disposal receptacles in your community.
Conservation of water is another way to protect groundwater. Consider installing water-saving appliances, faucets and toilets. Plant less water-intensive landscaping and use rain barrels to collect rainfall for watering the garden. Reducing water use often has the extra benefit of lowering water and energy bills.
Groundwater Awareness Week is an excellent time to become informed on local groundwater and watershed issues. Collaboration among individual citizens, local governments and industry is the key to effective management of our groundwater resources. Find ways you can become part of the solution to protect and improve water resources in Kentucky.
For more information about groundwater, well maintenance, groundwater protection plans and wellhead protection, visit http://water.ky.gov/groundwater.