Facts About Groundwater

Learn some basic facts about groundwater, and a DIY Spring Box project.

| March 2014

  • Groundwater, the source of drinking water for about half of North America's population, loses many of its contaminants on the the way down to the underground aquifers.
    Photo by Fotolia/Tamas Zsebok
  • “Country & Cottage Water Systems,” from author Max Burns, takes the guesswork out of rural water workings, and offers DIY projects that let anyone improve their H2O situation.
    Cover courtesy Cottage Life Books

With solid and easy-to-understand advice, Country & Cottage Water Systems (Cottage Life Books, 2010) is perfect for anyone who needs help comprehending the mysteries of rural water systems. From wells to outhouses, Max Burns, has the DIY projects and illustrations needed to bring the clean water in and send the waste out. With this excerpt from “Water Sources: Assessing your options,” learn some basic facts about groundwater and building a DIY spring box.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Country & Cottage Water Systems

Facts About Groundwater That You Should Know

While it's true that systems drawing from groundwater sources rather than surface water sources are more reliable and don't require the same level of seasonal cold-weather preparations, the principal motivator for choosing groundwater as a source for drinking water remains concern over water quality. Simply put, groundwater is less susceptible to contamination.

Groundwater, hidden away in underground aquifers, is the source of drinking water for about half the population of North America. Aquifers can be pockets of porous earth that hold water much as a sponge does, or fractures and under-ground caverns in rock. Aquifers can be isolated tankards or an interconnected series of reservoirs that can extend for miles. Some aquifers lie just a few feet below the surface, with their water levels being topped up every time it rains. Rainwater being naturally soft and acidic, and therefore slightly corrosive, absorbs soluble minerals from the rock and becomes harder as it percolates through earth. Simultaneously, microorganisms and many harmful chemicals accumulated from the atmosphere and initial contact with the earth's surface are gradually left behind as the water continues to filter downward. This tendency for water to swap contaminants with earth usually increases in proportion to the depths it must travel before joining up with a suitable aquifer, so deeper is considered better from a quality standpoint. And the deeper the aquifer, the more likely its contents will be unaffected by rainwater and whatever else is happening on the surface. In fact, it's quite possible for acquifers to lie undisturbed for millennia. Either way, it's this natural cleansing process and relative isolation that makes groundwater a safer and more consistent source of potable water than surface water. That said, once polluted, groundwater will likely remain that way for a very long time. How does it get polluted? Usually via some connection to the surface, such as a spring or a well.

When the weight of the earth above an aquifer exerts a force on the water within it that is greater than atmospheric pressure, that water will rise whenever a connection is made, whether that connection is naturally occurring or one constructed by us. Normally, this simply brings the height of the water closer to the surface but if the pressure is great enough, water will pour out that connection's exit as if someone left the tap running. We call this an artesian spring or flowing (or artesian) well.

Spring Water

Spring water has the reputation of being the cat's meow, but in reality, it can be closer to some of the other things a cat emits. While it's true that water loses many of its worldly contaminants en route to finding an aquifer, if the return trip to the surface is unprotected there's little to stop contaminants from rejoining the flow. A well has a lining or casing to help protect it; a spring has nothing. Therefore spring water almost invariably must be treated to ensure it's safe for drinking.

4/13/2014 6:00:40 AM

Good post, but wish there was a link to the Container in the picture.. On where to purchase them. Thanks Vic

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