Groundwater Awareness Week focuses on education about water resource
National Groundwater Awareness Week was recognized March 5-11, and across the state, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) has spearheaded efforts to inform citizens about the precious resource.
“Seventy-five percent of Wyoming citizens depend on groundwater,” says WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank.
The National Groundwater Awareness Week (NGAW) website notes, “Groundwater is the world’s most extracted raw material, with withdrawal rates currently in the estimated range of 259 trillion gallons per year.”
“About 60 percent of groundwater withdrawn worldwide is used for agriculture,” NGAW continues. “About 38 percent of irrigated lands are equipped for irrigation with groundwater.”
Groundwater supplies between 25 and 40 percent of all drinking water worldwide.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) states that there are more than 90,000 private wells in Wyoming, and no state or federal agency regulates water quality in private wells.
“Therefore, it is important for private well owners to regularly inspect, maintain and sample their wells and to be aware of potential threats to groundwater nearby and on their property,” DEQ says.
Know the well
In conjunction with National Groundwater Awareness Week, DEQ designated March 13 as “Know Your Well” Day.
“Water quality varies considerably across the state and is influenced by naturally occurring constituents such as sulfates, sodium, total dissolved solids or iron,” DEQ says.
During “Know Your Well” Day, DEQ encourages Wyoming well owners to make sure their well is properly maintained and cared for.
“The well owner is solely responsible for the maintenance of their private water well, and they are required to maintain it in such a condition that it does not contribute to the contamination of groundwater,” DEQ continues. “Properly maintained wells help to protect the groundwater that supplies the well.”
The agency encourages well owners to regularly inspect their wells and correct issues that are found immediately.
“Proper well drilling and maintenance is also important,” Frank says. “We stress the preventative measures that are necessarily in terms of handling pesticides and fertilizer to make sure we’re not contaminating our groundwater wells.”
Proper maintenance of wells includes several steps.
To protect wells, DEQ says first, landowners must know exactly where their well is located and should keep potential contamination sources away from the well. Additionally, they note that it is important to keep pooling water away from the well.
“There should be a slope away from the well,” DEQ comments.
A commercially manufactured well cap or sanitary seal should be in place, and any vent tubing should be covered in fine mesh.
To maintain the integrity of water well, DEQ notes that owners should check for visible casing cracks, listen for water freefalling into the well and check condition of any well vents and the well cap, replacing those if necessary.
Finally, unused or abandoned wells should be plugged and sealed, and any equipment used inside the well should be disinfected prior to use.
Frank emphasizes that it is also important for landowners to perform groundwater testing.
“Some of the conservation districts across the state offer groundwater testing kids,” Frank says. “People who are interested in testing their wells can contact their local district for more information.”
DEQ adds, “Well owners should be aware of their water well quality and potential contaminants that could impact their drinking water. An impacted water source may be unsafe to use without treatment, even if the water has been used for many years without people getting sick.”
Everyday activities including natural processes, water disposal leaks, land use, improperly constructed or maintained wells and spills or leaks may affect water quality, and DEQ names nitrates, bacteria, arsenic, uranium and methane as the most common contaminants in Wyoming.
“We’ll continue our groundwater awareness efforts this fall,” Frank adds. “Groundwater is a vital natural resource affecting drinking water irrigation and healthy ecosystems.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.