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Groundwater - Not an Infinite Supply


Groundwater Is Not an Infinite Supply

Water, it sustains life.  Everyone needs to drink it.  Farmers need it to water crops.  Its availability is fundamental in the ability to produce consumer products, including fuel.  Since population in the United States  is growing exponentially, so is its need for water.  To satisfy its ever burgeoning need for more and more water, the nation uses lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater to supply its needs.

Typically, as surface water (lakes, rivers, streams) supplies diminish, groundwater is used instead.  However, in some areas, groundwater is the primary source of water.  Many have related groundwater to a bank account, it is necessary to ensure the withdrawals are not more than the deposits.  Currently, the United States is pumping groundwater out faster than it can ever be replaced.


What Makes Groundwater so Important?

Why is understanding this information so important?  There are several reasons, the least of which is that groundwater depletion is occurring at a rate that is currently unsustainable, and also because there are other impacts from depleting groundwater faster than it is being replenished.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that the overuse of groundwater causes issues such as:

  • Reducing the water levels in lakes and streams;
  • Loss of stream/river side vegetation and consequently, wildlife habitat;
  • Negatively impacts fish and other water species;
  • Water quality deterioration;
  • Lowering of the water table leading to:
    • Wells becoming dry, requiring new or deeper wells to be dug;
    • Increased cost of pumping the water up from deeper wells;
    • Saltwater contamination; and
    • Land subsidence from lack of support underneath, which cause the soil to compact and drop, often resulting in what are known as sinkholes.

What Steps Can Individuals Take to Lower Their Water Footprint?

Many websites are available to help educate citizens about depleting groundwater and the future consequences, while others help show individuals how they can help by reducing household consumption.

Each of the calculators offer suggestions on what steps can be taken to reduce water consumption.  A few ideas include:

  • Installing low flow water heads in showers
  • Replacing regular sink faucets with those that are low flow;
  • Changing toilets to those requiring only 1.5 gallons per flush;
  • Wash laundry only with full loads;
  • Ensure appliances are energy star certified and water efficient;
  • Capture excess running water into a bucket and use it to water plants, or for pet water
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under running tap water;
  • Compost kitchen organic matter; and
  • Use rain barrels to capture rain water and roof runoff and use this to water lawns and landscaping.

It may not seem like much, but many of these minor changes have significant impacts.  For instance, according to the various water calculators, switching to low flow shower heads uses approximately 2.5 gallons per minute, where older shower heads can use more than 5 gallons per minute.  It only takes a little effort from each person, and the savings can be significant, helping to ensure water's sustainability into the future.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.