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Infrastructure Week 2016: Groundwater And Well Systems Are Critical U.S. Infrastructure

Out of sight, out of mind’ too often applies to groundwater and the subsurface environment in which it exists, but maintaining this critical infrastructure is essential to providing comfort, security, goods, and services for the U.S. economy.” The National Ground Water Association issued this important reminder today to mark the beginning of Infrastructure Week 2016 on May 16.
Infrastructure Week tells the story of what infrastructure means to Americans. It matters, in ways big and small, to our country, economy, quality of life, safety, and communities.
“Even though groundwater and the subsurface environment is not visible, we rely on it daily,” says NGWA CEO Kevin McCray, CAE. “The essential products and services of this unseen natural infrastructure must be managed and protected to sustain the well-being of the nation.”
The Association has created a  five-step guidance for public supply well operators to use in collaborating with consulting hydrologists and water well system professionals to maximize their systems’ water and energy efficiency.
An estimated 262,000 public water supply wells rely upon the natural storage of water in aquifers. Transmission of groundwater to their wells’ intakes is used by 137,900 public systems serving a combined 102.6 million Americans. While our nation’s civil engineers grade the nation’s overall drinking water infrastructure with a “D,” these water wells work every day to supply essential water. Improved well pump designs and controls are lowering energy needs for these wells, too, helping to make well systems one of the nation’s most affordable infrastructure projects.
Groundwater and wells serve other critical needs across America as outlined below.
Supply and production infrastructure
Stream baseflow is maintained by 492 billion gallons per day of groundwater discharge through streambeds to supply larger public water systems using surface water, providing inland river navigation and commerce to support ecosystems.
The nation’s food supply (and some of the world’s) relies on more than 400,000 irrigation wells dependent upon the storage and transmission of groundwater through aquifers without a vast infrastructure network.
More than 13 million occupied household wells rely on the natural storage and transmission of groundwater without an extensive centralized water distribution system.
An estimated 500,000 ground source heat pump installations exchange heat, often with groundwater, efficiently reducing dependence on extensive pipe networks for fuel to heat homes and buildings.
Storage in natural subsurface reservoirs
Aquifers around the nation store groundwater for 13 million households, 137,000 public (community and noncommunity) water systems, and 121,000 irrigated farms without extensive collection and distribution pipes and vast surface storage areas.
Hundreds of aquifer storage and recovery sites store water supplies naturally in the Earth for future use.
Water watchdogs
Thousands of groundwater monitoring wells are in place across the country to ensure groundwater is safe to drink, usable for crop irrigation, and manufacturing processes, and managed to provide sufficient quantity and quality of water for a large range of products and services, including ecosystem support. Unfortunately, the nation still lacks a fully equipped, integrated, and funded National Ground-Water Monitoring Network to sustain and grow this diligence.
Coordinated by a steering committee representing America’s business, labor, and policymaking leadership, and comprised of more than 100 affiliate organizations from all sectors of America’s economy and civil society, Infrastructure Week is the largest, most diverse, nonpartisan coalition of organizations dedicated to strengthening America by rebuilding our infrastructure.
NGWA, the leading worldwide advocate for professionals teaming to provide, protect, manage, and remediate groundwater, conveniently and promptly delivers an extensive range of resources contributing to member success through relationships, leading edge and emerging practices, and credible new ideas and solutions.
SOURCE: National Ground Water Association