Groundwater is an essential natural resource that supplies water to large sections of the rural communities in our nation. This source of water is also used by farmers and food production companies as a source of irrigation for crops. This is extremely important if rainfall cannot be relied upon and the demand for drinking water has increased. It’s estimated that around 43% of the water used for irrigation purposes globally is sourced from groundwater supplies.
What is Groundwater?
Groundwater is located in aquifers that are located underground in many regions. The water in these aquifers is naturally cleaned as it has been filtered through layers of sand, rock, and soil. Groundwater helps to keep the water in surface waterways at a consistent level during the dry months when rainfall is scarce. Despite its seemingly remote location, groundwater can be susceptible to certain sources of contamination. This means that groundwater users may need to filter and purify their drinking water in a similar manner to people that use water from a public water supply. Let’s take a look at three common causes of groundwater contamination in more detail.
1. Natural Contamination
Some groundwater contamination can occur through entirely natural processes. There are substances, such as arsenic, iron, sulfates, fluoride, chlorides, radionuclides, and more, that can become dissolved in a source of groundwater. Another problem is organic matter that can decay in or near a source of groundwater, and this causes contamination. When contamination occurs, it can represent a health threat to consumers. Some contamination can be recognized by unpleasant tastes, odors, or a strange color. Groundwater that has been contaminated must be cleaned to a good standard before it is safe to use in your home.
2. Fertilizers and Pesticides
These are commonly used chemical based products found in agricultural areas. When a farmer spreads fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, slurry, and animal waste in their land it can cause pollution. These materials seep into the soil where they can spread microorganisms and nitrates to groundwater. Pollutants of this kind are harder to detect with your senses and they can lie in the ground and groundwater for many years. As an example: Atrazine is a weed killing product that has been linked to a number of health problems such as cancer, congenital disability, and even a low sperm count.
3. Pipeline and Sewage Waste
There is a large network of pipes carrying wastewater and sewage under the ground. These pipes can be compromised and they can leak their contents into the surrounding soil. Ultimately these contaminants can reach groundwater and cause contamination. There are many contaminants found in sewage, including bacteria, viruses, nitrogen, inorganic salts, heavy metals, and other chemical pollutants. Significant investment is needed for our water related infrastructure which is not being prioritized at this time. So, it’s likely that this problem will only get worse in the future.
As you can see, using groundwater in a private well is no guarantee of quality. A well user needs to take control of their water quality with regular testing and treatment. If you want to improve your private well water quality, contact your local water treatment specialist today.
By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.