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National Groundwater Awareness Week March 11-17

Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 7:15 am

There is something every person can do to be a good steward of groundwater—the largest source of available freshwater in America and the world—during National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 11-17.

The Minnesota Water Well Association joins the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) is urging the public to help preserve and protect groundwater for human and environmental purposes. Nearly 44 percent of America’s population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply.

Following are five keys to being a good groundwater or water well steward.

Groundwater protection

First, properly store, use, and dispose of hazardous household substances. These include, but are not limited to, petroleum products; paints and paint thinners; fertilizers; weed killers; pesticides; cleaning products.

Proper use means always following the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not over-apply products. Store hazardous household substances in sealed containers in a secure place. Do not dump them on the ground, or pour them down the drain or toilet. Instead, contact local waste authorities about proper disposal.

Second, survey your property for any abandoned wells, particularly if you live in a rural area. An abandoned well that has not been properly “decommissioned” can be a direct pathway for contamination into the aquifer. If you find an abandoned well, contact a qualified water well system contractor to properly decommission it if necessary.

Third, if you have a septic system, have it checked regularly by a qualified septic system contractor. A failing septic system may present a contamination threat to the groundwater.

Groundwater conservation

Americans are some of the largest users of water, per capita, in the world, using 79.6 billion gallons of groundwater daily—the equivalent of 2,923 twelve (12) ounce cans for every man, woman, and child. About 75 percent of water used inside the home occurs in the bathroom. Outdoor water use varies greatly across the country from 44 percent in California to only 7 percent in Pennsylvania.

Tips for conserving water include:

1. Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it

2. Repair dripping faucets and toilets; one drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons a year

3. Retrofit household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors

4. Choose appliances that are water- and/or energy-efficient, such as low-flow toilets

5. Don’t run a faucet when not using the water, such as while brushing your teeth

6. Only run the dishwasher when it is fully loaded

7. Operate clothes washers only when they are full, or set the water level to match the load size

8. Plant native and/or drought-resistant grasses, ground cover, shrubs, and trees

9. Avoid overwatering the lawn; a heavy rain eliminates the need to water for up to two weeks

10. Raise the mower blade to a higher level to hold soil moisture and strengthen the root system.

Proper well location and construction

Ideally, a well’s location should be determined with a contractor or hydrogeologist before the home is built. A qualified water well system contractor will be familiar with state or local well construction codes, including those pertaining to separation distances from potential contamination sources. To learn more, visit www.wellowner.org or visit the (Affiliate State web site address).

Regular well maintenance

NGWA recommends an annual well system maintenance checkup by a qualified water well system contractor to reduce risks to the water supply and prevent costly and inconvenient breakdowns.

Water treatment equipment should be serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Also, every well owner should periodically check the well cover or cap, and the well casing above the ground, to make sure they are in good shape.

Water testing and treatment

Testing the water is one of the well owner’s most important responsibilities. Here are some basic steps the well owner can take.

First, determine if the well is clean. A dirty well, for instance, one with accumulated sediment or debris at the bottom, can create an environment suitable to bacterial growth and impair effective disinfection. A qualified water well system contractor can determine if the water well system needs cleaning.

Next, check with appropriate state or local authorities about any area-specific water testing recommendations.

Generally, NGWA recommends well owners annually test for bacteria, nitrate, and anything of local concern. The water should be tested more frequently if there is:

Any change in the water’s taste, odor, or appearance
A problem such as a broken well cap or a new contamination source
A family member or houseguest who has recurrent incidences of gastrointestinal illness
A pregnant woman or infant living in the home
A dangerous contaminant that shows up in your neighbors’ water
A need to monitor the efficiency and performance of home water treatment equipment.

When seeking a qualified water testing lab, contact your state drinking water testing lab certification officer. You also can check with your local health department, or check the “Water Quality” section of NGWA’s Web site for well owners, www.wellowner.org.

Upon receiving test results, ask the lab if there are any contaminants that present a health risk—or check with an appropriate public health or water regulation agency. You also can check your test results against the U.S. EPA’s maximum contaminant levels on its Web site.

Should any contaminants above levels of health concern remain after proper maintenance, talk to a qualified water well system contractor about options such as installing a new well, rehabilitating the well, or installing a water treatment technology to address the specific water quality issues.

To learn more, visit the NGWA’s Awareness Week Web page or its Web site for well owners, www.wellowner.org.

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