March 4, 2015
By Marie Zhuikov
Next week (March 8-14) is Groundwater Awareness Week. Groundwater is a hidden vital resource. An estimated 1.2 quadrillion gallons of groundwater lies beneath Wisconsin’s surface. If all that liquid were above ground, it would submerge the entire state in 100 feet of water. Seven in 10 state residents and 97 percent of the state’s inland communities depend on groundwater for their water supply.
Groundwater Awareness Week has been spearheaded by the National Groundwater Association for over two decades. The association and the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute encourage well owners to schedule an annual well checkup now, before the peak water use season begins in the summer. An annual checkup by a qualified water well contractor is the best way to ensure problem-free service and good water quality. Also, preventative well maintenance is usually less expensive than emergency maintenance.
Here are some things to expect when a contractor checks a well:
- A flow test to determine system output, along with a check of the water level before and during pumping (if possible), pump motor performance (check amp load, grounding and line voltage), pressure tank and pressure switch contact and general water quality (odor, cloudiness, etc.).
- A well equipment inspection to assure it’s sanitary and meets local code.
- A test of water for coliform bacteria, nitrates and anything else of local concern. Other typical additional tests are those for iron, manganese, water hardness, sulfides and other water constituents that cause problems with plumbing, staining, water appearance and odor.
Groundwater is formed when rain and melting snow infiltrates the ground. The water eventually reaches a zone in the soil that is filled with water, called the water table. The water stored within and below the water table is groundwater. This water moves slowly through the pre spaces or cracks in the rocks, typically from higher to lower elevations underground. Sometimes it flows into lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.
Any chemicals spilled or applied to the soil have the potential to contaminate groundwater. With so much of Wisconsin relying on groundwater, ensuring a sustainable supply of safe, high-quality water is of fundamental importance, and it is one of the goals of the UW-Water Resources Institute.