This World Water Day (March 22) our attention is directed to a magnificent, but invisible, resource below our feet: groundwater. Drawn by the force of gravity, rainwater and snowmelt accumulate over the years in pores and fractures in Earth’s subsurface rocks and sediments to form extensive underground aquifers of groundwater. Billions of people around the world rely on wells to tap these aquifers for their drinking, cooking, bathing, agricultural and industrial needs. This year’s World Water Day theme, “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible,” shines a spotlight on this “invisible” resource.
Protecting groundwater for sustainable use is a matter of preventing pollution in the watershed and avoiding withdrawing water from aquifers more quickly than it can be replenished by nature. Is groundwater pristine? Not always. Pathogens may infiltrate groundwater through leaking wastewater pipes, septic systems, or even livestock waste in agricultural areas. That is why groundwater is frequently treated with chlorine-based disinfectants before use. These disinfectants safely destroy waterborne microorganisms that can spread disease, saving countless lives globally.
Groundwater may be out of sight, but thanks to this year’s World Water Day focus, people around the world will be encouraged to learn about and be mindful of this critical resource.