What is Groundwater?
Every day we turn on our faucets, showers, dishwashers, laundry machines, and countless other water-dependent conveniences without stopping to consider: where does all that water come from?
For the tri-county region of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties, 100% of our water comes from below ground. Through a private well or a public utility, we all rely heavily on groundwater. This is the water that soaks into the ground as rain, melting snow, sprinkler spray, or from any other outlet. Thanks to gravity, water seeps through the different layers of soil and rock until it reaches a layer it can no longer pass through. From there, it will begin to pool and grow in size until it becomes an aquifer.
An aquifer is an underground layer where all space between rocks and soil is filled by water. The top of the aquifer, where the water only fills some space between rocks and soil, is referred to as the water table. The water table level can change throughout the year, or over the course of many years, depending on a variety of things like the demand for water pumped from wells, droughts, heavy rainfall, flooding events, or warm winters, just to name a few.
If all this water is underground, how do we access it?
In nature, cracks in rocks can cause water to rise to the surface due to variances in pressure, which may then result in the formation of a natural spring. In other cases, the water table can reach a high enough level so that it feeds into streams, rivers, or lakes. Luckily for us, we have designed technology to drill wells into these underground resources so that we can access them directly in our homes. Many homeowners have at least one or two wells that pump groundwater automatically – all they have to do is turn on the faucet.
How Do You Get Your Water?
Urban Drinking Water
People live closer together in urban environments, which means they require a unique design to ensure enough resources, like water, can be shared amongst all who live there. In most urban communities, public water utilities and municipalities are created to help clean and supply drinking water to households and businesses throughout a specific area. In the tri-county region, these public utility companies use their wells to pump groundwater through an intense filtration and treatment process that complies with federal regulations. Then, they send the newly filtered water back underground via a pipe network that connects directly to the water pipes in your home or place of business.
The water you receive from your faucet goes through many steps to reach the clean, drinkable quality it has when you turn on the tap. If you have any concerns about the water you’re receiving, check out the annual Consumer Confidence Report for your utility or municipality. If you have any further questions, always reach out to them directly. Public water utilities and municipalities work hard to give you clean water and want you to feel as confident about its quality as they do.
Rural Drinking Water
In less densely populated and more rural areas, most communities use a combination of approaches to supply residents with drinking water. Some towns and villages supply treated drinking water for the majority of their population, while some may still rely on private well water. Because of this split, homeowners might not know where their water actually comes from. A property may have originally gotten its water from a private well but could have transitioned to a public water supply as it changed hands from owner to owner. Over time and throughout the growth of a community, this heightens the risk of groundwater pollution as a result of improper care for forgotten or otherwise unprotected wells.
Even if you are certain your water comes from a public utility company, there is a chance your property could be home to an improperly abandoned well. Wells that are not properly sealed when abandoned pose a high risk of pollution by giving contaminants direct access to groundwater reserves and, in turn, the drinking water you bring into your home. Common household chemicals such as fertilizers, oil, and road salt are among the most likely pollutants to enter groundwater through improperly abandoned wells.
To find out if there are any abandoned wells on your property, check any historical property documents you may own, search your property on Michigan Wellogic, or reach out to your local Health and Human Services Department for additional information and assistance.
The GMB: Protecting our Resources
With Michigan leading the country in number of private household wells, it’s important to know how you get your water so you can properly protect the groundwater we all depend on. Though the different layers of rock and soil help to filter the water entering our aquifers, there are many things that can pollute this resource. Landfills, septic tanks, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and large quantities of salt can all contaminate our water – because groundwater is hard to access, it’s also hard to clean if it becomes polluted.
That's where we come in!
Founded in 1982, the Groundwater Management Board (GMB) is composed of representatives from Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties who work together to educate the public about the importance of groundwater protection, exchange knowledge about best practices, and assist local governments to keep our water resources clean.
We are managed by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and designated by the State of Michigan as the regional Large Water Users Group for the coordination of groundwater management and related water disputes.
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