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What is groundwater?


Groundwater is water that comes from the ground. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Amazingly, many people use groundwater but don't even know it. In fact, half of everyone in the United States drinks groundwater everyday! Groundwater is even used to irrigate crops which grow food for us to eat!


Where does groundwater come from?

Groundwater comes from rain, snow, sleet, and hail that soaks into the ground. The water moves down into the ground because of gravity, passing between particles of soil, sand, gravel, or rock until it reaches a depth where the ground is filled, or saturated, with water. The area that is filled with water is called the saturated zone and the top of this zone is called the water table. Makes sense, doesn't it? The top of the water is a table! The water table may be very near the ground's surface or it may be hundreds of feet below.

Think about this: have you ever dug a hole in sand next to an ocean or lake? What happens? As you're digging, you eventually reach water, right? That water is groundwater. The water in lakes, rivers, or oceans is called surface water...it's on the surface. Groundwater and surface water sometimes trade places. Groundwater can move through the ground and into a lake or stream. Water in a lake can soak down into the ground and become groundwater.


What is Groundwater Pollution?


Groundwater pollution is a type of pollution which occurs when groundwater becomes contaminated. Around the world, groundwater pollution is a very serious and costly problem, and many governments have started to take aggressive action to address it. Once contaminated, groundwater is very expensive to clean up and make usable again, and in some cases, an aquifer may be so contaminated that it has to be abandoned, which can put tremendous pressure on a community as it attempts to find a new supply of water.

Any number of contaminants can end up groundwater, including sewage, prescription medications, agricultural chemicals, microorganisms, road salt, landfill seepage, petroleum products, chemicals, and hazardous waste such as nuclear waste. These contaminants make the water unsafe to drink, because they can cause severe health problems. The water may also be unsafe for use in agriculture or manufacturing, and it can cause issues for local wildlife and flora exposed to the contaminated water.

People with wells are at a high risk of getting sick from polluted water, because plumes of contaminants can end up in some surprising places, and people who drink municipal water are also at risk, because groundwater supplies may be one of the sources used by a municipality to supply the water needs of the populace.

Once discovered, groundwater pollution needs to be addressed, and filtered. Finding the source of the contamination and cleaning it up or containing it is important, as is filtering your water to make it safe for use. In cases where the water cannot be cleaned, it will be necessary to contain it so that the contaminants cannot form a plume in the soil and reach clean water supplies. Alternative supplies of water may need to be secured to meet water needs while the pollution is dealt with.


How Does Groundwater Contamination Occur?

Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts and chemicals get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. Some of the major sources of these products, called contaminants, are storage tanks, septic systems, hazardous waste sites, landfills, and the widespread use of road salts, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.


Agricultural:

Pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and animal waste are agricultural sources of groundwater contamination. The agricultural contamination sources are varied and numerous: spillage of fertilizers and pesticides during handling, runoff from the loading and washing of pesticide sprayers or other application equipment, using chemicals uphill from or within a few hundred feet of a well. Agricultural land that lacks sufficient drainage is considered by many farmers to be lost income land. So they may install drain tiles or drainage wells to make the land more productive. The drainage well then serves as a direct conduit to groundwater for agricultural wastes which are washed down with the runoff.

Storage of agricultural chemicals near conduits to groundwater, such as open and abandoned wells, sink holes, or surface depressions where ponded water is likely to accumulate.

Contamination may also occur when chemicals are stored in uncovered areas, unprotected from wind and rain, or are stored in locations where the groundwater flows from the direction of the chemical storage to the well.


Industrial:

Manufacturing and service industries have high demands for water. Groundwater pollution occurs when used water is returned to the hydrological cycle. Modern economic activity requires transportation and storage of material used in manufacturing, processing, and construction. Along the way, some of this material can be lost through spillage, leakage, or improper handling. The disposal of wastes associated with the above activities contributes to another source of groundwater contamination.

Some businesses, usually without access to sewer systems, rely on shallow underground disposal. They use cesspools or dry holes, or send the waste water into septic tanks. Any of these forms of disposal can lead to contamination of underground sources of drinking water. Dry holes and cesspools introduce wastes directly into the ground. Septic systems cannot treat industrial wastes.

Waste water disposal practices of certain types of businesses, such as automobile service stations, dry cleaners, electrical component or machine manufacturers, photo processors, and metal platters or fabricators are of particular concern because the waste they generate is likely to contain toxic chemicals. Other industrial sources of contamination include cleaning off holding tanks or spraying equipment on the open ground, disposing of waste in septic systems or dry wells, and storing hazardous materials in uncovered areas or in areas that do not have pads with drains or catchment basins.

Underground and above ground storage tanks holding petroleum products, acids, solvents and chemicals can develop leaks from corrosion, defects, improper installation, or mechanical failure of the pipes and fittings. Mining of fuel and non-fuel minerals can create many opportunities for groundwater contamination. The problems stem from the mining process itself, disposal of wastes, and processing of the ores and the wastes it creates.


Residential:

Residential waste water systems can be a source of many categories of contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, nitrates from human waste, and organic compounds. Injection wells used for domestic waste water disposal (septic systems, cesspools, drainage wells for storm water runoff, groundwater recharge wells) are of particular concern to groundwater quality if located close to drinking water wells.

Improperly storing or disposing of household chemicals such as paints, synthetic detergents, solvents, oils, medicines, disinfectants, pool chemicals, pesticides, batteries, gasoline and diesel fuel can lead to groundwater contamination. When stored in garages or basements with floor drains, spills and flooding may introduce such contaminants into the groundwater. When thrown in the household trash, the products will eventually be carried into the groundwater because community landfills are not equipped to handle hazardous materials. Similarly, wastes dumped or buried in the ground can contaminate the soil and leach into the groundwater.


Filter Your Groundwater

In the United States today, there are thought to be over 20,000 known abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and the numbers grow every year. Hazardous waste sites can lead to groundwater contamination if there are barrels or other containers laying around that are full of hazardous materials. If there is a leak, these contaminants can eventually make their way down through the soil and into the groundwater.

Landfills are another major source of contamination. Landfills are the places that our garbage is taken to be buried. Landfills are supposed to have a protective bottom layer to prevent contaminants from getting into the water. However, if there is no layer or it is cracked, contaminants from the landfill (car battery acid, paint, household cleaners, etc.) can make their way down into the groundwater.

The widespread use of road salts and chemicals is another source of potential groundwater contamination. Road salts are used in the wintertime to put melt ice on roads to keep cars from sliding around. When the ice melts, the salt gets washed off the roads and eventually ends up in the water. Chemicals include products used on lawns and farm fields to kill weeds and insects and to fertilize the plants. When the rain comes, these chemicals get washed into the ground and eventually into the water.

In our quest to produce cheaper food (fertilizers) and fuel (fracking), we are gradually polluting our groundwater with nitrates, phosphates, carbonates, and petrochemicals.


Filtering Groundwater

There are two basic types of water filter. Those that are installed inside a water ionizer and those that are installed outside a water ionizer or as a standalone filter. External filter systems can be configured in any number of stages with each stage removing a particular type or group of contaminants. Removing one type or group of contaminants is often considered a 1-Stage filter (i.e. removing either chlorine, fluoride-lead-arsenic, or nitrates). Filters can be combined to form any number of stages to form: 2-Stage, 3-Stage, and even 7-Stage (i.e. reverse osmosis) filter systems. How many stages you need to filter your water depends on the possible contaminants in your water. The most common water contaminants include:

 

By combining different filters into a 2-Stage or 3-Stage system, you can remove multiple contaminants to produce a higher quality drinking water than with just a 1-Stage filter. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are more expensive, however, they are recommended for removing the highest percent (up to 99%) of contaminants from your water.

 

Please contact our customer support center for help with your water ionizer questions.

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