Protecting groundwater is a community-wide effort
Vancouver, Wash. – Clark County Public Health reminds residents that protecting our groundwater is important and a responsibility that all of us share.
In Clark County, 98 percent of our drinking water comes from groundwater.
National Groundwater Awareness Week is March 11-17. This year’s theme, selected by the National Groundwater Association, is “Test. Tend. Treat.”
Better stewardship and protection of groundwater by well owners and other residents is encouraged and promoted through information on the association’s website: groundwaterawarenessweek.com.
Chuck Harman, program manager for Environmental Public Health, said these types of campaigns help people understand the importance of groundwater and what they can do to protect it.
“Some residents may not be aware of the vast underground lakes, known as aquifers, several hundred feet below us,” Harman said. “These aquifers are recharged through snow and rainfall that start at the surface and percolate down. All of us have a role in properly managing and disposing of potential pollutants and contaminants to keep them from reaching surface or groundwater.”
While federal, state and local rules are in place to control potential sources of pollution, individual efforts also are important to ensure groundwater resources are protected to safeguard water quality.
- Residents should inspect and maintain onsite septic systems on a regular basis to ensure that wastewater is treated adequately before it is dispersed deeper into the ground.
- Be sure to properly use, store and dispose of hazardous substances, such as fuels, oils, pesticides and herbicides, to keep them from reaching ground and surface water.
A few key tips for homeowners who have private wells or operate small public water systems:
- Periodically send water samples to a qualified laboratory to test for arsenic, bacteria (fecal coliform), lead and nitrate.
- Inspect wellheads and water connections to make sure that contaminants cannot enter your well and the aquifer. Clark County Public Health can provide guidance on what to look for and improvements you can make. Professionals are available for hire.
- If you do find problems with your water quality, take steps to resolve the problems or treat your water.
- Keep potential sources of contamination away from your wellhead. Public Health recommends maintaining a 100-foot sanitary area free of all potential contamination sources, such as stored chemicals and manure piles, around wellheads.
Brigette Bashaw, an environmental health specialist with Public Health, said drinking-water protection specialists are available to help county residents.
“We’ve found that once well owners and small water system operators learn how to care for and protect their wells and water systems, they really appreciate the importance of maintaining and caring for them,” Bashaw said. “Once a well or aquifer is contaminated, it can be difficult and costly to rehabilitate it.”
More information on protecting groundwater is available online at:
Clark County Public Health Drinking Water Program, www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/drinking-water-and-wells
Washington State Department of Health, www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/DrinkingWater
National Groundwater Association: www.ngwa.org/Pages/default.aspx