Clean water and our communities

Posted 2/1/23

Where does your water come from?

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Clean water and our communities


Where does your water come from?

If you said “from my well,” you’re half right.

Private wells don’t tap into an underground river or rock-lined reservoir that is yours and yours alone. Most wells in the Brodhead watershed are drilled down to below the water table, where layers of rock, soil, sand and sediments are saturated with water. 

This porous, watery, underground rock is what people mean by “the aquifer,” and it’s shared by hundreds or thousands of people.

A pump draws water from this shared aquifer into your home’s pipes for drinking, bathing, flushing and all your domestic water uses. Water you take out is refilled—or “recharged”—by rainwater and snowmelt.

And that’s where things can get dicey.

Anything that goes onto the ground can go into the ground—and eventually make its way to the aquifer that you and your family depend on.  

When the road crew spreads salt during a winter storm, or a neighbor dumps used motor oil out behind the garage, and even when you spread pesticides or fertilizers in the garden, those chemicals can find their way to your drinking water.

Salt is particularly risky. That’s because the soil does a good job of purifying many contaminants—but it can’t cleanse itself of salt.  Something as simple as cutting back on road salt can help keep your drinking water safe.

Your municipal government plays an important role in the water you drink.  Towns must balance environmental concerns with road safety, but they also determine how an area is zoned.  Aquifers don’t respect property lines, so zoning decisions your elected officials make—about how much land can be covered with roofs and asphalt, about what kinds of buildings, businesses and activities are allowed and where—all affect your well and your water.  Once the trees are bulldozed and the warehouses are going up, it’s too late.

Water wisdom

During long stretches of sub-freezing weather, standing water can freeze, but creeks don’t—and neither do wells. Both creeks and wells get their base flow of water from groundwater—and whether it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees below zero on the surface, groundwater stays a close-to-constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit—well above freezing.

If you have “town water,” whether from a private community system or a public utility, that water comes from a combination of wells and surface water.

To learn more about water quality and groundwater, visit www.brodhead

Carol Hillestad is the outreach specialist for the Brodhead Watershed Association (BWA). The BWA protects water quality and quantity throughout our area. 

fresh water, clean, communities, tap, wells


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