Groundwater safety important to all Wyomingites

Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation urge well owners to learn about the importance of groundwater safety, maintenance

Photo: Evelyn Smith
Photo: Evelyn Smith

Whether for drinking, irrigation, industry or as part of a healthy ecosystem, groundwater is a vital natural resource affecting all walks of life. The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation (WNRF) ask Wyomingites to learn more about their groundwater wells.

 “Wyoming’s families, businesses and ecosystems are dependent on healthy groundwater supplies,” WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank said. “We encourage everyone to join us in learning about proper stewardship of this precious resource and to take action to ensure its abundance.”

Groundwater is a renewable natural resource that comes from precipitation that soaks into the soil and moves downward to fill openings in beds of rock and sand. These geologic formations that contain groundwater are called aquifers.

In many areas of Wyoming, surface water is fully appropriated and residents are relying more and more on groundwater.

“Groundwater appropriations have steadily increased over the years. Increased development places a greater demand on the state’s groundwater resources and requires a more comprehensive view when acting as stewards of Wyoming’s water,” Lisa Lindemann, Ground Water Administrator, Wyo. State Engineer’s Office, said.

 More than 75 percent of Wyoming citizens depend on groundwater for part or all of their drinking water supply. Nationwide, groundwater supplies nearly half of all drinking water and 40 percent of irrigation water, according to the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

It is the sole responsibility of well owners to test, protect and maintain private drinking water wells. Well owners should be aware of potential groundwater contaminants, their health risks and how to test for them.

According to the Wyo. Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division (WDEQ/WQD), the most common contaminants are nitrates, bacteria, arsenic and uranium. Consuming polluted groundwater poses serious health risks for anyone, but is especially harmful to infants, young children, pregnant or nursing women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Testing groundwater can help ensure its safety. The Water Quality Rules & Regulations Chapter 23A provides a complete list of common contaminants for which to test, but the WDEQ/WQD recommends at least annual testing for bacteria. Well owners should also test when there is an unexplained illness in the household, someone in the household is pregnant or nursing, there is a spill of chemicals or fuels near a well, neighbors find a contaminant in their water or if there are changes in the color, taste, or odor of water. There are several water quality laboratories located around Wyoming and in adjacent states. These laboratories can explain to homeowners how to collect water samples and what constituents to analyze for.

For proper well maintenance, the NGWA also recommends keeping a “clean” zone of at least 50 feet between wells and hazardous materials. Regularly check the well cover or cap to ensure it is in good repair and securely attached. Well owners should also have their septic tank cleaned and serviced every two years to eliminate the opportunity for waste backing up and unwanted materials leaching into the soil. This will affect the operation and life of the system and leachfield.

While there is no government agency that regulates water quality from private drinking wells in Wyoming, homeowners can get information about groundwater safety from the following sources:

  • A local Conservation District. Visit http://www.conservewy.com for local contact information.
  • The Wyoming State Engineer’s Office at 307-777-6163.
  • The Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division at 307-777-7781.

To learn more about groundwater and how to keep your drinking water supply safe, visit http://www.conservewy.com, http://www.ngwa.org and http://www.knowyourwell.org.

 About The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation

The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) provides leadership for the conservation of Wyoming’s soil, water and all other natural resources. WACD works to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, protect the tax base and promote the health, safety and general welfare of Wyoming citizens through a responsible conservation ethic. The Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation (WNRF) is dedicated to conserving Wyoming’s natural resources, heritage and culture. A sister organization to WACD, WNRF has established partnerships with many local, state and federal agencies, as well as private and volunteer organizations to serve as a strong foundation for all future efforts initiated by WACD and WNRF. Call 307-632-5716 or visit http://www.conservewy.com to learn more.

Contact Bobbie Frank, WY Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director, at bobbie.frank@conservewy.com or 307-632-5716

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