DEP Launches New Groundwater Monitoring Network

The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday encouraged all Pennsylvanians to protect public health and the environment by honoring National Groundwater Awareness Week March 8 to 14.

As part of this celebration, DEP has launched a monitoring initiative to measure groundwater quality. The new monitoring network expands previously limited monitoring efforts by sampling groundwater quality on a semiannual basis at select locations across the state, using existing wells in the Pennsylvania Drought Monitoring Network.

This project is currently focused in the northeast, northcentral and western parts of the state, where shale gas development is occurring. In the future, the data will give DEP more detailed information about groundwater resources statewide.

Protecting Pennsylvania’s groundwater involves guarding both its quantity and quality. DEP monitors groundwater quantity by measuring groundwater levels in observation wells throughout the state.

Groundwater levels are recorded daily and used to evaluate water availability and possible drought conditions. Current groundwater levels across the state are very low for this time of year.

“There is more than thirty times more groundwater than surface water in Pennsylvania, and chances are that some, if not all, of our drinking water depends on groundwater,” Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said. “Much of the water used in homes, restaurants, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and industry comes from groundwater systems, making protection everyone’s responsibility.”

Pennsylvania residents can do their part in conserving water in the following ways:

-- Install low-flow 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.

-- Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy.

-- Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads.

-- Provide insulation for pipes subject to freezing and/or providing a space heater instead of allowing faucets to drip continuously.

Pennsylvanians can protect groundwater quality by:

-- Don’t pour any toxic or hazardous substances (including paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, pesticides and herbicides) down the drain or into the toilet.

-- If you change the oil in a car, recycle the used oil.

-- When using fertilizers or pesticides, follow the directions. Use only the amount recommended by the product label.

Nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians rely on groundwater-supplied community water systems for their drinking water while another 2 million residents rely on groundwater-supplied private water wells. Proper management of groundwater-sourced systems ensures safe, healthy drinking water.

“All water well owners are urged to get their wells tested annually and check their well caps,” Quigley said. “Well owners should also be aware of what is stored near their well. Items like fertilizer, pesticides, oil, gasoline or diesel fuel should never be stored within 20 feet of a well.”

For more information generally on Pennsylvania’s groundwater, visit the DEP’s Groundwater Protection webpage.


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