Having grown up on a Middle Tennessee dairy farm, I was taught early to respect the groundwater that supplied our rural area of this planet and to understand that it was up to us to keep those waters safe for future generations to come. Our farm contained numerous sinkholes. My father informed me regularly in no uncertain terms, they led directly to our underground water sources. He stressed we must all be careful to make sure those sinkholes were not places where we discard anything that could contaminate the groundwater that flowed under them. In years past, that was not always the case on many farms and other properties due to the lack of understanding of how our groundwater sources work. Those holes in the ground in earlier years were the perfect source for disposing of anything a person may have wanted to get out of sight, regardless of the nature of its content or makeup, if you know what I mean. But today, with efforts carried out by our land grant universit ies, governmental departments of agriculture and environment, along with a general education of our population of teaching everyone the importance of protecting our groundwater, we have seen improvement in water quality.
With most of us getting our water supply today from local utilities and right out of the tap whenever we need it, we often forget that 95 percent of all available freshwater in this country comes from aquifers underground. With most of our surface water bodies connected to the groundwater in some way, it is very important that we all understand we have a stake in maintaining the quality of groundwater supplies. All across Tennessee there are still privately owned wells that provide drinking water for families along with fresh water for livestock and irrigation to water crops. Safe water will always remain important and protecting the natural resource of groundwater should be a top priority of all of us.
It is reported by the National Groundwater Association that Americans are the largest water users, per capita, in the world. They say in the terms of groundwater, we use 79.6 billion gallons per day, which is the equivalent of 2,923 12 oz. cans for every man, woman, and child in this nation. With all of the people I see with plastic bottles of water walking the streets everyday just around my part of the country, I would say that number is pretty much on target, give or take a drop. As our population continues to increase, so will the numbers on water usage continue to grow making it even more important that we protect our supply.
September 14 is National Protect Your Groundwater Day. How you celebrate that day is up to you. You can have a party, avoid washing your car, take a sponge bath, or do a lot of other things to show your dedication to protecting our groundwater, but the important thing to remember is that protecting groundwater is more than a once a year job.
There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection listed by the Groundwater Association. They are keeping it safe from contamination and using it wisely. That’s pretty simple advice, but very important. By just maintaining septic systems, preventing improper storage and disposal of hazardous substances such as insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals, we can protect groundwater quality. For years many have blamed agriculture for groundwater problems, but with the increase of multiple houses in the same locations, plus the overuse of chemicals on lawns and landscaping, runoff is also increasing from the suburbs. There is even an increase in the concern for the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products showing up in our water supply. Fingers can no longer be pointed in just one direction. Instead, the effort includes all of us working together to protect groundwater and helping to reduce risks to our water supply.
For more information on how you can protect our groundwater and just why you have a stake in doing so, go to www.ngwa.org/public/PYGD/pygd.aspx. Take time to celebrate Protect Your Groundwater Day, but most importantly, let’s all do a better job of protecting it each and every day.