A Day Of Visibility For Water
On this World Water Day, learn more the basics of groundwater, which is necessary for drinking water, sanitation, our food supply, & natural world.
Here’s a riddle for you…
What always runs, yet doesn't walk, often murmurs but doesn't talk. Has a bed, but doesn't sleep, has a mouth but never eats.
Today is World Water Day, and did you know that almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater? This precious resource supports drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming, industry, and ecosystems. In many places, human activities over-use and pollute groundwater. In other places, we simply don’t know how much water is down there.
About 50 percent of people in the U.S. alone depend on groundwater for their drinking water supply. Yet most people don’t know the basics about this resource.
What is groundwater?
Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rocks, sands, and gravels that can hold water. This water bubbles up naturally through a spring or can be discharged into lakes or streams. Even though it’s underground, when it does rise up, groundwater helps to replenish and maintain levels of surface water, which are the bodies of water we can see such as rivers, lakes, streams. Groundwater helps keep our rivers flowing.
Why should we care about groundwater?
More than 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, and while that might sound like a lot, about 96 percent of it is saline—or saltwater found in the ocean. Less than 1 percent of the water on our planet is drinkable. We drink from two main sources: (1) surface water such as creeks, rivers, lakes, and wetlands, and (2) groundwater, which is water found under the earth’s surface. All this water must be treated before we drink it.
In many areas, groundwater is over-used when more water is abstracted from aquifers than is recharged by rain and snow. Groundwater pollution is a HUGE problem that impacts this water source and can take decades or even centuries to recover from. In some places, we do not know how much groundwater lies beneath our feet, which means we could be failing to harness a potentially vital water resource.
Exploring, protecting and sustainably using groundwater will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population.
How do we regulate groundwater?
We recently discussed the Clean Water Act, here in the U.S., and that law does not directly address groundwater contamination, so the government created another law called the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974. It specifically covers waters designed for drinking use, including aboveground and underground sources. This law governs our tap water and makes the EPA responsible for setting safety standards for what we drink. It also requires all owners or operators of public water systems to comply with these standards.
The SDWA gives the EPA authority to identify contaminants and regulate their levels in drinking water to protect public health. The agency sets regulatory limits for more than 90 contaminants.
The EPA has three criteria, according to the law, when determining what to regulate:
a contaminant may have an adverse health effect on people
a contaminant is known to occur or there is a high chance that the contaminant will occur in public water systems often enough and at levels of public health concern
regulation of the contaminant will result in a meaningful opportunity for health risk reductions for people served by public water systems
If the EPA establishes a regulation for a contaminant, then public water systems need to comply with it. But if the EPA decides not to regulate a contaminant, then it may issue a health advisory, which is a non-enforceable federal limit that serves as technical guidance for federal, state, and local officials.
Let’s take a moment to get clear: we have enforceable and non- enforceable regulations.
Of the enforceable regulations, we have what are called maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). An MCL is the legal threshold limit on the amount of a substance allowed in public water systems according to the SDWA. The limit is usually expressed in a concentration of milligrams or micrograms per liter of water. These standards are set by the EPA for our drinking water quality.
In order to set an MCL, the EPA first looks at what levels of a contaminant can be present with no adverse health issues. That level is called the maximum contaminant level goal, which is a non-enforceable goal. The MCL is set as close as possible to the goal, but this system is not perfect.
Sometimes, the EPA will establish a treatment technique (TT) instead of an MCL, which is a procedure that must be followed to treat water for a contaminant. It’s enforceable and it’s not a perfect regulation. Both MCLs and TTs are known as primary standards in EPA-speak.
The EPA sets standards based on the science available. Maybe they know studies are coming out soon saying that a contaminant could cause cancer, so they set a goal or a health advisory, not an MCL. In other cases, they may have animal studies but not human ones. They can’t set standards when they don’t know the full impact. They can’t create regulations without enough data. It’s a slow dance of completing the studies we need to create the right rules and regulations.
For too many communities, that dance is waaay too slow.
So many people and communities across the world are fighting for clean water now. On this World Water Day, let’s send them all our support.
Other articles we’re reading this week…
State Unveils Long-Awaited Standard For Drinking Water Contaminant by Rachel Becker
In A World On Fire, Stop Burning Things by Bill McKibben
Warmer, Drier Springs To Bring Worsening Drought to U.S., NOAA Report Predicts by Cristen Hemingway James
A Tribe In Maine Is Using Hemp To Remove ‘Forever Chemicals’ From The Soil by Lina Tran
Share your thoughts on World Water Day in the comments below. How has groundwater impacted your community?
This is very interesting and good information
Thank you for all the interesting information that you write about and share
I shared this article on my website and FB. Thank you
Here are some sobering facts about our water. And just knowing this I wonder how in the name of God we can allow injection of toxic, radioactive, forever chemicals to be disposed of in our groundwater,which is exactly what is occurring at the Arroyo Grande Oil Field by Sentinel LLC and 100's of thousands of other injection wells across this country.
Is it allowed by exemption or exceptions to the rules? How can you make an exception or exemption to a rule that guarantees safety, health and well being? Morally, ethically you can't. Poisoning the water supply is still poisoning no matter who does it. An exception or exemption just gives the offending party immunity from prosecution. So wtf?
If I poured arsenic down my neighbors well and all the animals and anyone that drank it died, am I liable? Or is that o.k. because I was granted special dispensation by the persons in charge of making and enforcing the law? Well, here's another interesting fact. People are not held to the same standards and rules and regulations as corporations.
Corporations can be exempted and granted immunity from prosecution for first degree murder, manslaughter, in essence poisoning of vital resources, air, water and soil to be specific. Whereas, in the case of real persons they are held to a different much stricter and more stringent standards under criminal codes for the same offense.
A pardon from the President of the United States is the only thing that will save a sentenced person and it is based on proving they were unjustly convicted of the crime. And even then in many cases like, Leonard Peltier, even when proven innocent there is no pardon. Now that is criminal in the first degree.
Corporations on the other hand are granted an automatic pardon and afforded the privilege of just saying, aka, lying that their discharge and industrial by product is harmless and that is good enough to allow them to dump the poison until people and things start to die. That could pose a momentary set back for the producers but systematically doable. You can't bring the animals and people back to life but all the offending party has to do to avoid prosecution is to say; “sorry my bad. I didn't know what I was doing. It was an accident"
Our 2 tier justice system that handles real persons committing crimes against humanity and the social order one way under criminal law while at the same time handles fictitious persons differently under the quasi Administrative Rules and Regulations civil process that have automatically granted them immunity from prosecution for ‘crimes’ against humanity and the social order.
It is in fact impossible to prosecute a Corporation under Criminal law because they can not be captured and prosecuted as a person and sentenced to death or life in prison like a real person for capital crimes or any crimes for that matter. The worst that can happen to a fictitious entity that practices unsafe, unhealthy, deadly operations is a monetary settlement, you could call this capitol punishment, which really doesn't do justice to or cure or remedy the death and destruction of lives and livelihoods that was inflicted. In civil settlements of this nature they are allowed to continue doing what they are doing which guarantees more deaths, suffering, irreparable and irreversible harm wherever they are present. Whereas real persons are removed from society, incarcerated, which removes the threat to the public and prevents them from repeating their offense. Not so with corporations who are operating under a different set of rules.
Yes, a real clear and present division and divide of how the law recognizes and values lives v capitol. 2 sets of rules with 2 different standards of moral and ethical codes of conduct. Corporations are amoral and real persons are moral centric. Which is to say morals don't apply to the amoral class of 'persons.'
So the law that is based on morals and principles and treats everyone the same doesn't apply to a class of 'persons' that are fictitious and privileged in nature. Interesting. Questions really are; Is this system of justice sustainable and doable? Is it fair? It is right? Are these even valid questions in an amoral society? So who are we?