Where does your drinking water come from?

Published on Thu, Mar 5, 2009 by Emily Resch

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Birch Bay Water & Sewr District

Fifty percent (about 140 million people) of the United States drink groundwater each day. Groundwater aquifers supply over 13,000 people in northwest Whatcom County and have been utilized since the early 1900s. The city of Blaine and Birch Bay water and sewer district are examples of public utilities that draw on groundwater supplies as their primary source for drinking water.

What is groundwater?

It is obvious that groundwater is water that comes from the ground, but how does it get into the ground? Groundwater comes from rain, snow, sleet and hail that soaks into the earth. The water moves down into the ground by gravity, passing between particles of soil, sand, gravel or rock until it reaches a depth where the ground is filled, or saturated with water.

The area that is filled with water is called the saturated zone and the top of this zone is called the water table. The water table may be near the ground’s surface or it may be hundreds of feet below the surface.

Groundwater is stored in the ground in materials like gravel or sand. An area that holds a lot of water which can be pumped up through a well is called an aquifer. Wells and pumps deliver groundwater from the aquifer and then pipes deliver the water to homes and businesses.

The water delivered to your tap comes from a system of deep well aquifers located on the city’s forested reserve east of Boblett Street, south of H Street and west of Harvey Road. The city protects, provides and treats the local water supply while the District purchases water wholesale from the city that is conveyed to Birch Bay.

A threatened resource

Our society heavily depends on groundwater for drinking water and irrigation. Increased demands on groundwater supplies have overstressed aquifers in many areas of the nation.

It is important as consumers of groundwater that we protect our local water resource by minimizing and eliminating toxic contaminants entering into the aquifers and reducing our water consumption to sustain the productivity of our wells.

To prevent groundwater contamination, consumers can purchase phosphate-free detergents and less polluting household cleaning products.

In addition, consumers can practice water conservation in the home to reduce the amount of water used on a daily basis.

For more information on groundwater and conservation tips, please contact myself, Emily Resch, at 371-7100 or waterconservation@bbwsd.com.