XENIA — Only one percent of all earth’s water is considered usable for humans. Of this tiny amount, 99 percent comes from groundwater. Greene County Public Health (GCPH) celebrated this precious resource by observing National Groundwater Awareness Week March 5-11.
The goal for the week was to improve public appreciation for one of the most valuable natural resources. Well owners, especially, should take this opportunity to evaluate their systems to ensure their wells are protected and free of contamination.
It’s important to understand the natural processes that create and maintain groundwater. The natural water — or “hydrologic” cycle allows rain and snow to recharge the water stored underground in the aquifer. Think of the aquifer as a sponge —a large area of rock, soil, and sand saturated with water. This recharging process is normally very efficient and clean. As rain water and snow melt saturates the ground, it moves downward into the aquifer and is filtered along the way. Paints, fertilizers, motor oil, and other chemicals can overwhelm this natural filtering process and contaminate the aquifer for years. This means that each one of us has a responsibility to properly dispose of any chemicals or contaminants before they become a problem.
Additionally, biological contaminants from livestock or wildlife manure can find their way down or around well casings and into the groundwater. Well owners should establish a 50-foot “clean zone” — an area around the well that is protected from any use of chemicals or the presence of livestock.
Well owners should periodically inspect their equipment. Well caps should be looked at to ensure they are in good repair and fit tightly to prevent pests. Additionally, the Health District recommends disinfecting wells at least annually, or anytime plumbing or the water system is altered or serviced.
This is also a great time for well owners to have their water tested for contamination. The National Ground Water Association recommends an annual “well checkup” that includes a test for bacterial growth and the presence of nitrates. (Nitrates may indicate that the groundwater has been contaminated by fertilizers.) A well should be tested anytime there is a change in taste, odor, appearance, or after the system has been serviced. GCPH provides well water sampling for a fee. To schedule a water sample, call 937-374-5607.
For more information on National Groundwater Awareness Week, visit: www.wellowner.org. For specific information on problems common to well owners in Greene County, check out GCPH’s website at www.gcph.info.