About 60% of our body is water, so it makes sense that the quality of our drinking water can affect our health. Our lives depend on clean water, but when you just open the tap to pour a glass of water, it’s easy not to think about what may be in it. So, how do you know whether your water is clean? If you pay a water bill, then your water utility should be ensuring that your water meets all the standards set out by the EPA. But if you have a private well, then it’s your responsibility to test your water.
It just so happens that March 10-16 is National Groundwater Awareness Week, so in honor of the theme—Think!—let’s give some thought to your well water and how you can protect it.
Groundwater is the source of drinking water for 44% of the U.S. population—that’s more than 13 million households and over 132 million people who rely on wells! Even though you can’t see it, the groundwater supply in America is 30 times larger than all U.S. lakes, streams, and rivers combined. Every day, Americans use 79 billion gallons of groundwater.
The National Groundwater Association suggests a simple maintenance reminder for well owners: Test. Tend. Treat. These three words can help you to know how to protect your water quality by testing your water, tending to or maintaining your well, and treating your water when necessary.
We’ve talked previously about how testing is the only way to know whether your water is safe to drink. If you have not tested your well water before, or if it’s been a few years, now is a good time. The results can bring peace of mind or tell you what needs to be treated. The University of Maryland Extension also recommends some simple water protection tips:
- Use a state-certified lab to test your drinking water annually for bacteria and nitrate, which are signs of fecal contamination.
- Pump your septic tank at least every three to five years, or as determined by an annual professional inspection.
- Protect your septic drainfields from traffic, tree or shrub roots, and excessive water runoff
- Properly store and dispose of household chemicals such as cleaning products, fertilizers, paints, pesticides, and petroleum products. Do not dump them down the drain or toilet, or on the ground.
- Use high-efficiency appliances and fixtures.
- Conserve water by taking shorter showers, turning off water when brushing teeth, fully loading dishwashers and laundry machines, applying mulch around landscaping to reduce watering needs, and installing a rain barrel to collect rainwater for irrigation use.
Protecting groundwater is both an important public health and environmental issue. By thinking about how we affect this resource and following simple practices, we all can be better stewards of our ground and drinking water. Pass it on—remind a friend or family member!