Celebrate groundwater—Wisconsin’s buried treasure

National Groundwater Awareness Week is March 5-11

Contact: Kevin Masarik, (715)346-4276, kmasarik@uwsp.edu

Each year the National Ground Water Association designates one week to raise awareness of the vital role played by our nation’s “buried treasure”–groundwater. This year Groundwater Awareness Week will be celebrated March 5-11.

“Groundwater is a vital resource to our state,” says UW-Extension groundwater specialist Kevin Masarik. “Groundwater pumped out of the ground by wells is used to meet the daily water demands for nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin’s residents. It also provides nearly all of the water for our agricultural industry–irrigation, livestock and dairy operations.”

In addition to providing for human needs, groundwater sustains Wisconsin’s streams, lakes and wetlands.

Masarik offers some suggestions for people to make the most of Groundwater Awareness Week:

—If you have your own well, have the water tested. Spring is a great time to test well water, particularly for important health concerns like bacteria and nitrate. A list of certified testing labs and information on what to test for is available on the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources “What’s Wrong with My Water” website. 

—If your drinking water comes from a city water supply, there is a good chance it is groundwater. Ninety-five percent of Wisconsin communities rely on groundwater. Contact your local water utility and ask them for the most recent water quality data or learn about how your community’s water supply is protected. Thank them for doing a great job of providing quality drinking water and ask how you can help.

—“Think Trout—Think Groundwater.” Fishing the early trout season is a great way to celebrate Groundwater Awareness Week. Trout rely on the clean, clear, cool, oxygen-rich water characteristic of groundwater-fed streams.

—Take a hike to visit one of the 10,851 known springs in Wisconsin, many of them on state parks or other public lands. Springs are important because they give a first glimpse at water that may have been underground for years or even decades. In addition to providing scenic beauty, they often harbor unique and even endangered species. The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey maintains an inventory of Wisconsin’s springs.

—Wells that are no longer used represent a direct conduit for pollutants to contaminate the groundwater aquifer. If you have an unused well on your property, take steps to ensure that it is filled and sealed properly and will not contaminate groundwater in the future. Your local land conservation department may be able to assist you with this process.

—Do some spring cleaning of hazardous materials around your home so they do not end up contaminating groundwater or surface water. Find out where your community prefers that people take hazardous wastes and plan a time to drop them off.

—Take steps to reduce the amount of water that you use everyday. Some quick and easy solutions include installing more efficient faucets and toilets. Planting less water-intensive landscaping and using rain barrels to collect rainfall for watering the garden can also help to conserve groundwater. Reducing water use also means lower water bills and greater energy savings.

Learn more about groundwater and things you can do to protect this important resource.

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