Ground Water Canada

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Ground water and well systems critical U.S. infrastructure: NGWA


May 13, 2016
By Ground Water Canada

Westerville, ON – Maintaining ground water and the subsurface environment in which it exists is essential to providing comfort, security, goods, and services for the U.S. economy, the National Ground Water Association said in a news release to mark the beginning of Infrastructure Week 2016.


Infrastructure Week, which begins on May 16, tells the story of what infrastructure means to Americans.

“Even though groundwater and the subsurface environment is not visible, we rely on it daily,” NGWA chief executive officer Kevin McCray said in the release. “The essential products and services of this unseen natural infrastructure must be managed and protected to sustain the well-being of the nation.”

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The NGWA has created a five-step guidance for public supply well operators to use in collaborating with consulting hydrologists and water well system professionals to maximize their systems’ water and energy efficiency.

An estimated 262,000 public water supply wells rely upon the natural storage of water in aquifers. Transmission of ground water to their wells’ intakes is used by 137,900 public systems serving a combined 102.6 million Americans. While U.S. civil engineers grade the nation’s overall drinking water infrastructure with a “D,” these water wells work every day to supply essential water. Improved well pump designs and controls are lowering energy needs for these wells, too, helping to make well systems one of the nation’s most affordable infrastructure projects, the association said.

The association outlined several needs served by ground water and wells:

Supply and production infrastructure

  • Stream baseflow is maintained by 492 billion gallons per day of ground water discharge through streambeds to supply larger public water systems using surface water, providing inland river navigation and commerce to support ecosystems.
  • The nation’s food supply (and some of the world’s) relies on more than 400,000 irrigation wells dependent upon the storage and transmission of groundwater through aquifers without a vast infrastructure network.
  • More than 13 million occupied household wells rely on the natural storage and transmission of ground water without an extensive centralized water distribution system.
  • An estimated 500,000 ground source heat pump installations exchange heat, often with ground water, efficiently reducing dependence on extensive pipe networks for fuel to heat homes and buildings.

Storage in natural subsurface reservoirs

  • Aquifers store ground water for 13 million households, 137,000 public (community and noncommunity) water systems, and 121,000 irrigated farms without extensive collection and distribution pipes and vast surface storage areas.
  • Hundreds of aquifer storage and recovery sites store water supplies naturally in the Earth for future use.

Water watchdogs

  • Thousands of ground water monitoring wells are in place across the United States to ensure ground water is safe to drink, usable for crop irrigation, and manufacturing processes, and managed to provide sufficient quantity and quality of water for a large range of products and services, including ecosystem support. Unfortunately, the nation still lacks a fully equipped, integrated, and funded National Ground-Water Monitoring Network to sustain and grow this diligence, the association said.

Infrastructure Week is co-ordinated by a steering committee representing U.S. business, labour and policymaking leaders, and made up of more than 100 affiliated organizations from all sectors of America’s economy and civil society.