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, or WACD, and Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation, WNRF, ask Wyomingites to join in recognizing National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 8-14.

“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. Groundwater sustains streamflows and helps maintain ecosystems that are dependent on groundwater discharge to streams, lakes and wetlands, according to the National Ground Water Association, NGWA.

NGWA reports the United States uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public and private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power and other purposes. Americans are some of the largest water users, per capita, in the world.

"The average person probably needs to be aware of two issues, and that's protection of the quality of the groundwater as well as conservation of water itself," says Frank.

She says it is important for people to help conserve this precious resource. She advises that everyone be conservative with water use, never let a faucet run when not using water, only run the dishwasher and clothes washer when there is a full load, repair dripping faucets and toilets, choose water- and energy-efficient appliances, landscape with native plants and avoid overwatering lawns.

All people can reduce groundwater pollution, even those who don’t own wells. NGWA asks consumers to use common sense when handling hazardous materials. Mix toxic chemicals such as motor oil, antifreeze and fertilizers on cement to prevent them from entering the groundwater system. Always read the product directions and never go above the recommended mixing ratio or over apply chemicals to lawns, gardens and fields.

It is the sole responsibility of well owners to test, protect and maintain private drinking water wells. 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:

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