The water cycle moves water through the environment. As water falls to the earth as precipitation - either rain or snow - it may run off into streams, lakes, rivers or bays. Water will evaporate from these surface water bodies. Water that evaporates can later condense (called condensation), forming clouds that may produce rain or snow.
The water table is the top of the groundwater. It is the boundary between the saturated and unsaturated zones. The water table rises and falls according to the time of the year and how much rain or snow we receive.
When the water table rises above the land, groundwater discharges to the surface and becomes surface water. Also, if the water table drops, surface water can recharge the groundwater. If you’ve ever been swimming in a lake or pond and feel a “cold spot,” this cold spot could be groundwater discharging into the lake or pond. You notice it because groundwater is often colder than surface water during the summer.
Groundwater moves from recharge areas to discharge areas. When the water table rises to the land’s surface, groundwater discharges into surface water. Groundwater discharge areas include wetland, lakes, ponds, rivers, springs and oceans.
Groundwater is recharged from precipitation, either rain or snowmelt. Groundwater recharge occurs in areas of the earth’s surface that are permeable, where soil or rock allows the water to move into the ground. These areas are called recharge areas. Areas on the earth’s surface that do not allow for groundwater recharge are called impermeable areas.
An aquifer is an area of underground soil or rock that is filled with water. An aquifer is capable of supplying water to a drinking water well. There are two types of aquifers - sand and gravel aquifers and bedrock aquifers.
How You Can Save Water
Always try and remember to conserve your water as you will be helping the future generation. Your grandchildren and their children will need the water that we are throwing away today.
Use your well as though it was your last drop! Space your water activities over a 24-hour period. Example: one load of laundry, one shower. By spacing your water usage, you are letting your well recover.
Tip One Turn the water off while you brush your teeth and save over two gallons a minute.
Tip Two Fix dripping faucets and running toilets. A leaky faucet that drips at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 2,700 gallons a year.
Tip Three Save water and money by choosing efficient shower heads, dishwashers and other appliances. Look for the water sense labels.
Tip Four Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
Tip Five Dispose of chemicals properly at a hazardous waste drop-off centre. Don’t pour them on the ground, into the sewer or down the drain.
Tip Six Avoid using pesticides or herbicides on your yard and garden. The chemicals can contaminate groundwater and streams and can also hurt kids and pets.
Tip Seven In the yard, use mulch to keep moisture from leaving the soil and minimize the need to water.
Tip Eight If you must water the lawn, water in the early morning or evening and try to avoid watering on windy days. This will limit the amount of water that is evaporated by the sun or blown onto sidewalks and driveways.
Tip Nine Plant a rain garden to add beauty to your yard, while absorbing and filtering runoff. Water absorbed in a rain garden will filter pollution otherwise headed for streams.
Tip Ten Use a rain barrel to collect rain and help water your plants. Forty percent of the average homeowner’s water use is outdoors. Rain barrels reduce the stress on municipal water systems during the dry summer months.
“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.”
United Nations Secretary General
An owner of a private drinking water well is responsible for the protection of his well. Proper protection includes regular testing of the well water.
Each year the well water should be tested at a provincial licensed laboratory for at least bacteria, nitrate and sodium. Additional tests may also need to be done depending on where you live.
Coliform bacteria are common in the environment and are generally not harmful. However, the presence of these bacteria in drinking water may indicate that dangerous disease-causing bacteria are also present.
It is important that private wells are regularly tested for coliform bacteria. There should be no coliform bacteria in your drinking water. Sources of bacteria in private wells can include an improperly working septic system, leaky sewer pipes and animal and pet waste.
Because freshwater is lighter than salt water, it floats on top of it. Along the coast, you find what is called a “fresh water lens” where the fresh water floats on top of the salt water.
Private wells along the coast will tap into this fresh water lens as a drinking water supply. Salt water can get into the fresh water lens, making it unusable for drinking. This mixing or intrusion can happen for many reasons, such as hurricanes or storms or when too much fresh water is withdrawn from wells along the coast.
Nitrate is a potential groundwater pollutant that occurs naturally in the environment and is also a breakdown of human, animal and pet waste.
Nitrate is an important plant nutrient that is also in fertilizers. We use fertilizers on our lawns and gardens to help our plants grow. Farmers use fertilizers on their crops.
Excess nitrate in drinking water can cause health problems. It is important that private wells are regularly tested for nitrate.
If test results indicate water contamination, it is necessary to treat the well to improve the quality and safety of the drinking water.
Well owners have four primary treatment options:
One Disinfection of the well to eliminate bacteria
Two Point of use treatment, usually under the kitchen sink, to filter out contaminants from drinking water
Three Point of entry treatment, usually at the point where well water enters the plumbing system
Four Multiple treatments for household water system, usually near the water storage tank, to filter multiple contaminants or improve water quality for all household uses