National Groundwater Awareness Week

National Groundwater Awareness Week

National Groundwater Awareness Week logo

National Groundwater Awareness Week

In Nebraska, almost 85 percent of people receive their drinking water from groundwater resources. This includes individual homeowners living in suburban and rural areas as well as the majority of towns and cities across the state—including Lincoln. Nebraska is also fortunate to have many miles of streams and rivers, which are connected to groundwater stores. Many of those groundwater resources are still relatively pristine which means that they require little to no treatment before use. The relative wealth of water resources—particularly groundwater resources—across the state, can often cause us to overlook their critical importance for people and our state as a whole. However, March provides an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about groundwater.

Since 1999, the National Groundwater Association (NGWA) has designated a week in March to bring awareness to groundwater resources across the nation.  National Groundwater Awareness Week is March 11-17 this year. During the week, NGWA and its many partners—including Nebraska Extension—focus on furthering their mission to educate the public about how groundwater is used, how it is managed and how its use and management impact our lives. 

Below are just a few of the amazing facts from NGWA about groundwater and how we use it:

  • Only 1% of the water on Earth is useable and 99% of that is groundwater.
  • Groundwater contains 20-30 times more water than all U.S. lakes, streams and rivers combined.
  • The United States uses 349 billion gallons of freshwater every day.
  • Groundwater accounts for 33% of all the water used by US municipalities.
  • More than 13.2 million households have their own well, which represents 34 million people. Approximately a quarter of Nebraskans are served by own well (about 450,000 people).
  • The largest US aquifer is the High Plains aquifer, which underlies 250,000 square miles stretching from Texas to South Dakota.  Scientists estimate it could take 6000 years to naturally refill the aquifer if it were ever fully depleted. Most of Nebraska sits atop the Ogallala formation of the aquifer.  A percentage of the aquifers located in Nebraska are seeing increased concentrations of contaminants, such as nitrates, originating from human activities. 
  • Groundwater is the world’s most extracted raw material with withdrawal rates in the estimated range of 259 trillion gallons per year.

So during March take some time to understand Nebraska’s very important groundwater resources. There are many resources including Nebraska Extension’s water website, UNL’s  Conservation and Survey Division, your local Natural Resources District and others, that can help you investigate groundwater in the state and also help you examine and better understand your role in protecting groundwater quantity and quality.    

This article was reviewed by Bruce Dvorak

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