Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dispelling Groundwater Myths

For Release: March 10, 2010
Kevin Masarik (715) 346-4276,
Carolyn Betz (608) 263-3149,

Stevens Point, Wis. (3/10/2010) -- Groundwater Awareness Week, March 7-13, presents an opportunity to learn more about one of Wisconsin’s most valuable natural resources.

Because groundwater is not visible, it is often misunderstood. Common misconceptions that people have about groundwater can make it difficult to understand the real issues and manage the resource wisely.

Groundwater is a local resource that originates as rain and melting snow which then infiltrates into the ground. This water seeps in between the soil particles or cracks and eventually into rocks beneath the soil. The area where all the empty space is completely filled with water is called the water table. All of the water below the water table is groundwater.

Groundwater is always moving, generally very slowly, through the pore spaces or cracks in the rocks below us. The rate of movement depends mostly on the properties of the underground formation in which groundwater is contained, called the aquifer.

Groundwater typically moves from higher elevations called recharge areas to discharge areas including lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Groundwater supplies much of the water to these valuable and enjoyable resources.

In addition to supplying water to surface waters, groundwater is also the source of water for nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin’s residents, for agriculture, and for industries. Everyone with a well on their property relies on groundwater to supply water to their home or business. The same is true for the thousands of cities and villages across the state that obtain their water through municipal wells.

Depending on the well’s depth, the types of soil overlying the land surface, and the type of aquifer into which the well is drilled, most water pumped by wells has often only been in the ground a couple of years or maybe a couple of decades. In some areas of the state with shallow soils overlying fractured bedrock, water from the land surface may reach a well in a matter of days or even hours.

Because groundwater is a local resource, any chemicals that are spilled or applied to the land’s surface have the potential to contaminate the groundwater supply below.

Because we depend on high quality groundwater, we must do our best to protect the quality of this vital resource. We must take extra care to ensure that land-use activities do not pollute water supplies, particularly near municipal and private wells. Limiting or restricting the types of land-uses allowed near wells is an important tool that communities can use to protect their groundwater supply.

Visit for links to additional information to help celebrate groundwater awareness week.