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Protect Your Groundwater: NRCS Can Help

Groundwater in the Lone Star State serves more than five million Texans

story by Melissa Blair

link to flyer at http://info.ngwa.org/PA/PYGWD%20poster%202013.pdfThe Texas USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) joins with the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) and other partners to promote ways Texans can protect their groundwater.

Ninety percent of Texans depend on public drinking water supplies. All Texans are encouraged to protect the public health and the environment through simple steps that will go a long way to ensuring a clean, healthy water supply for future generations.

In Texas, more than 5.3 million people rely on groundwater-supplied community water systems, while another 2.23 million residents rely on groundwater from their own household water wells. Proper management of groundwater and private well systems greatly impacts water quality.

Groundwater can be impacted during and after a drought.Households that do not rely on a private well can make a difference in groundwater quality, too. Appropriate storage, use, and disposal of hazardous household substances, in addition to septic system maintenance, can improve groundwater quality for everyone.

“Protecting groundwater through conservation is more important than ever,” said NRCS State Conservationist, Salvador Salinas. “Drought, which is a significant problem throughout the state, has the potential to put a strain on household water wells and public drinking supplies, but there are conservation programs and financial assistance through NRCS such as well decommissioning and brush clearing that can help protect and enhance the state’s groundwater.”

Surface water is also affected by groundwater because natural aquifer discharge is needed to maintain the flow in streams and rivers, especially during periods of little or no precipitation.

Here are some actions that individuals can take to protect and conserve groundwater:

  • Store cleaning products and other household chemicals properly and in a secure place.
  • Use household products according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Dispose of household products safely.
  • Install water-saving devices such as plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.
  • Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads.

Private well owners should take the following steps to prevent contamination and ensure water quality:

NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance for well decommissioning.

  • Move possible contamination sources, such as kennels or livestock operations, waste systems, or chemical storage areas for paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil, a safe distance away from the wellhead.
  • Test well water annually for coliform bacteria and nitrates, and anything else of local concern.
  • Inspect and clean the septic system regularly.
  • Inspect water well systems annually.
  • Work with NRCS to decommission any abandoned wells properly.

For a Texas landowner success story read:

Landowner Protects Aquifer and Water Quality by Sealing Wells

For more information, visit the USDA-NRCS county office located in most county USDA Service Centers or the website at www.nrcs.usda.gov. The Texas Well Owner Network at http://twon.tamu.edu. The National Groundwater Association's website is http://www.ngwa.org.