Protecting Groundwater? Impossible!

weather-002If you live in a community that depends on groundwater, and if your sustainability plan is founded on maintaining and protecting the quality of your aquifer, then you have set yourself up for eventual failure. It is important to understand that the water quality of our aquifers is constantly deteriorating. There is little we can do to slow this, and nothing we can do to stop it. Gradually, and eventually the water quality of all aquifers deteriorates. Let’s take a look at why this is.

Many of the world’s aquifers were formed thousands of years ago. In those times there were no factories, automobiles, fossil fuel-burning power plants, pesticides, fertilizers and land fills. The water that charged the aquifers and created them was far superior to the rain water that falls down now.

Our world today is full of contaminants that are simply a result of civilization. We can’t for instance magically reverse all the grease, oil, gasoline, salt and road wash that has entered the recharge points of our aquifers. Nor can we reverse the many years of other “chemicals of humanity” that have been, and are still being routinely carried into the earth by our rainwater.

Like it or not, wherever you live, your aquifer water quality is going to deteriorate.

oil-slickI am not saying that we should not conserve water and be better stewards of our water. However, if our concern is sustainability, then we are really wasting a lot of precious time trying to correct behavior that by all scientific measures will prove to be impotent efforts.

My success in the water industry has come from designing systems that focus on the “what if” scenario. I have always provided systems that address the worst case scenario. If those conditions never come, it doesn’t matter because my clients will be prepared either way.

So too, must this be with our drinking water. Sadly, we are so focused in the here-and-now, we are not preparing for the worst case scenario. We are not prepared for the inescapable deterioration of our ground water.

What would I do? It is very simple. Unlike an earthquake or storm, we already know well ahead of time that our water is going to become contaminated. So, I would begin designing, planning and finding funding for long-term infrastructure improvements to our water treatment plants. As I have written elsewhere, there are no contaminants that technology cannot remove from water. There is no water source that cannot be turned into safe, healthy drinking water.

Most of our current-day water treatment plants are out-dated. They are effective, but are designed for today’s water quality. As the rate of water quality deterioration increases, we may very well find out one day soon that we have missed the window of opportunity to prepare ourselves.