Fresh water is one of our most important natural resources because it’s needed for survival and there is no substitute for it. Unlike energy, which has many alternative forms there are no alternatives for water. Most of our earth is covered by water, but only a tiny amount is available for fresh water. The amount of accessible fresh water varies from country to country and region to region. The United States has abundant amount of water, but many regions have shortages and this is where groundwater comes in. Groundwater is very important to these parts of the world, it is used for farming and drinking in these areas. Groundwater helps these area’s tremendously and has to be used in normal quantities as they are liable to run out which causes many problems such as sinkholes, human displacement, and for soil to be totally drained of water useless for agricultural purposes. Even though tapping aquifers is a very practical idea it has some set backs as it can have disaterous eff! ects if polluted or over used. Groundwater originates as water or melting snow that seeps into the soil and finds it’s way down through cracks and spaces in rock until it is stopped by a impermeable layer of rock, where it forms as groundwater. the porous layers of underground rock in which the groundwater is stored are called aquifers.
hese – 2 – aquifers can either be confined or unconfined. The aquifers that are replaced by surface water directly above them are called unconfined. Confined aquifers are water deposits that are stuck between two layers of impermeable rock, this is sometimes called artesian wells. The water in artesian well is under extreme pressure and is often the most popular choice for wells as you can estimate the amount of water in them and be very accurate. There are many advantages to using groundwater for house water and farming in many parts of the world. In a desert there are very few water ways and this makes living here near impossible. With underground water supplies you can access water which does not take up surface water which takes up valuable farming land. In small countries this is particularly important as the more area for farming the better. When surface water such as rivers and lakes are used for house and drinking water many lakes water levels are lowered to dangerously low levels which could kill many types of animal species in these areas. The water has an abundance of minerals in it which are lost when the water level goes down which can not be leached into the soil from lakes and rivers.
– 3 – When living in large metropolis areas such as Tucson, Miami, Phoenix, and Memphis where there are not many lakes located in the middle of the large cities and thus they have to get there water from somewhere else. Without groundwater many cities in this area would not exist as there is no fresh water sources nearby causing them to have to drill for water. The use of groundwater also helps nature as it helps in the prevention of flooding. When area’s need water they look to surface water and if there is none they use groundwater. If there is not much water in an area they will damn the water source and it will flood the land killing many animals and there homes. By using grroundwater they save animals homes and get good drinking water. Groundwater also has it’s problems. There may be more problems than advantages as so much can happen if groundwater is used excessively. When an aquifer is drained enough the earth around it will start to lose it’s support causing sinkholes. these can cause lot of damage to personal property and endanger human life. In Winter park, Florida a sinkhole occurred that was 400 hundred feet wide and 125 feet deep. Sinkholes can happen in seconds and often have no warning to when they are going to appear.
Many regions that experience sinkholes – 4 – do not feel the full effect of sinkholes. this is because the land sinks over periods of time which most people can not detect but studies have shown in the last 40 years in Texas have shown that lands on the Ogallala aquifer have sunk of levels up to 21 m. The overuse of an aquifer near coastal areas can cause salt water intrusion which happens when a aquifer is depleted faster than it can replenish itself, so water from the oceans filter into the systems. Salt water intrusion happens in area such as Florida, Texas, Loiusiana, and southern California are feeling the effects of this as much of there drinking water has been eliminated. Salt water intrusion is very bad as it makes the drinking water too saline to drink or farm with. If a water is too salty there is only so much you can purify and it still may be too saline. The process of filtering the water is long and costly process which most people are not willing to pay for. When the water is full of salt it kills the soil around it by accumulating in the soil making the crop production of the soil go down and in some cases it makes the soil virtually ungrowable.
This has tremendous side-effects on people as it may interfere with there farming career. Most areas depend on aqu! ifers and if they are too saline they are not drinkable or useable meaning they – 5 – have to get there drinking water from somewhere else. This process is very costly as water is hard to transport in large quantities and it is a very ineffective method of getting water to an area. Maybe the most major downfall of groundwater is how easily it can get polluted. May large aquifers are starting to become very polluted from any chemicals being dumped into rivers that flow down and leach down through the soil and settle in the earth. Pesticides being used on agricultural areas find there way into groundwater, sewage, industrial waste, and garbage dumps all contribute to this problem. This is a problem which will not just go away as the dirtied water, will just sit there and collect more pollutants never riding itself of these chemicals. This is a major problem in the Great Reef aquifer which stretches from Southern California to Colorado.
Large amounts of industrial waste are put into the system in California and the chemicals spread through the water effecting people who live in he Colorado area. Pesticides that are have widespread use in California also have the same effect as they are used in fruit farming and they also end up in the reservoirs. The poll! ution of the aquifers has a tremendous effect on the people getting there water supply as these chemicals in the water can cause cancers, birth defects and serious illnesses for people who drink, and bathe in the water regularly. – 6 – The pollution in the aquifers have a chain effect meaning that whatever is put in them from somewhere else it can effect people that had nohing to do with the pollution in the first place.
Considering that over 50 % of the United States gets it’s drinking water from aquifers we know that it is maybe our most valuable resource on the planet even though it can not be measured in dollars and cents. Water levels in the aquifers are predicted to drop if further mass consumption continues in the United States which may prove to be disasterous to the ability of having enough fresh water for it’s growing popualtion and industry. In the last 35 years groundwater consumption has gone from 21 billion to 89 billion gallons in a day. If this rate of consumption continues at the current level three of the largest aquifers will be at dangerously low levels in 100 years.
Much action needs to be taken to prevent the groundwater from being polluted and depleted as so much of our everyday lives depends on it. Right now there are almost no signifigant projects to conserve this resource which is a shame as soon people may be paying major dollars for water as it will need to be clae! aned so heavily and if that does not work we will have to drink water that is full of chemicals and sewage. The idea of water being gone maybe a bit alarmist but if nothing is done to balance the water being taken out in it may be too late to do – 7 – anything about it. Groundwater is a great resource if used properly, if it is not used properly it can have a tremendous effect on our lives. I think that groundwater is worth the hastle but we need to practice better conservaton methods.