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GROUNDWATER IS VITAL FOR TEXAS’ FUTURE

Whether you live in the city or country there is a good chance that at least part of the water flowing from your faucets is groundwater or water that originates in an underground aquifer. As Texans look to the future to plan for water supplies to meet the needs of the state’s growing population, groundwater is going to continue to play an important role.

The National Groundwater Association has dubbed March 11 through 17 National Groundwater Awareness Week, making this an ideal time to look at ways we can take care of and conserve this most vital resource.

In Texas, 28 percent of the public drinking water supply, (about 1.2 million gallons a day) serving about 5.3 million people, comes from water wells, according to statistics released by the Texas Groundwater Protection Committee. And about 98 percent of rural Texans use groundwater.

Even if your water does not come directly from underground, it may have started there. Often, the water communities’ depend on for water supply are fed by springs. Overall, aquifers supply about 60 percent of the water used in Texas, including the 42 percent used for agriculture.

With the state’s population expected to nearly double in the next 50 years, we must act now to protect this valuable supply.

Here are some ways we all can help conserve and protect our groundwater:

Protection
While contaminants such as microorganisms and heavy metals occur naturally, there are many things we can do to keep additional pollutants out of groundwater.

  • When using fertilizers on lawns, gardens and crops, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid using too much. In addition to potentially damaging your turf or plants, excess fertilizers, pest and herbicides and other such substances can be washed in runoff into streams, lakes and environmentally sensitive aquifer recharge areas.
  • Be careful when storing lawn chemicals, motor oil and other potentially hazardous substances outdoors. Leaking containers or spills can pollute groundwater. Check with local authorities or waste disposal services about safe ways to get rid of such unwanted materials. Often local agencies will hold hazardous waste collection events. Click here to check for local hazardous household waste programs.
  • If you use a septic system, make sure it is properly installed and regularly maintained. Septic systems must also be placed a safe distance from water bodies, wells and other areas where they could seep into water supply. For more information about septic systems, their proper installation and regulations in Texas, click here.
  • Old unused wells can be a quick path for pollutants to enter groundwater supplies as well as a public safety hazard. The well is a direct route from the surface to the aquifer below, and contaminants can enter with little or no filtration through soil and rocks as in other areas above groundwater. Plugging an abandoned well by dumping materials into it until it is full may do little to reduce the potential for contamination. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a primer on properly plugging wells, as well as other information, including relevant laws and regulations, here.

Conservation

According to the National Groundwater Association, Americans use 79.6 billion gallons of groundwater each day. Just like with surface water, much of that is wasted due to poor personal habits. The good news is, there is a lot we can do – easily — to greatly reduce the water we waste.

  • Indoors, one of the best things you can do to avoid wasting water is to check regularly for and fix leaking faucets and toilets. Replace worn washers and valves on sinks and pipes. A leaking faucet can waste more than 3,820 gallons of water a year.
  • Run dish and clothes washers only when fully loaded. Consider buying higher-efficiency models.
  • When getting a drink, brushing teeth or doing the dishes, don’t leave the water running. Try scraping plates over a trashcan or compost receptacle. Fill the sink with soapy water and rinse as needed. Put a pitcher in the refrigerator for drinking water instead of running the sink to wait for it to cool. Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water. Then, reuse the water on houseplants.
  • Outdoors, don’t over-water your lawn or garden. Water early in the morning when it is cool, to reduce evaporation.
  • Use native grasses or others that require less water. Consider xeriscaping for landscaping, using heartier, drought-tolerant plants instead of commonly used varieties that demand lots of water.
  • Considerer harvesting rainwater when the weather permits. Because rainwater is free of salts, minerals and other contaminants, it is ideal for watering lawns and gardens, and with proper treatment, drinking. Professional harvesting and storage containers are available on the market, ranging in size from small buckets to tanks that can hold thousands of gallons.

For more information about conservation, rainwater harvesting, xeriscaping or other related topics, please visit the Brazos River Authority’s Web site, by clicking here.