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Groundwater - Out of sight, but not out of mind: National Groundwater Week

March 10 - 16, 2013 is National Groundwater Awareness Week, and it reminds us of the importance of groundwater and keeping it clean, though the average person typically knows little about it. About 44 percent of Americans rely on groundwate - the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rock, gravel, and sand below the ground's surface. In rural areas, the number of people who depend on ground water is much higher - about 96 percent. Nearly two million Kentuckians depend on groundwater for domestic water supplies through public water systems or private wells drilled into water-bearing soils and rocks beneath the ground surface. There are nearly 15.9 million of these wells across the U.S., serving households, cities, business, and agriculture every day.

Irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States, about 67.2 percent of all the groundwater pumped each day, amounting to some 53.5 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from more than 407,913 wells.

Groundwater also provides much of the flow of many streams; often lakes and streams serve as "windows" to the water table. Although we often speak of groundwater and surface water as though they were two different things, groundwater is the sustaining supply for surface water, and, in karst areas, surface water often enters or returns to the groundwater system through sinkholes and cave openings.

Groundwater protection is particularly important for people with water wells for their household water supply. Some tips for protecting well water:

Much more information on groundwater and its importance can be found at these Web sites:


Panoramic view of Short Creek karst window in Pulaski County, Ky.