This week marks the 20th anniversary of National Groundwater Awareness Week (NGAW). LSLA’s Environmental Justice Team observes NGAW as we consider this vital natural resource and its importance to our lives. This year’s theme, “Think” encourages us to think about ways that this important resource can be protected in order to ensure abundant, clean groundwater for future generations to come.
What is groundwater?
In contrast with surface water flowing in rivers, lakes, and streams, groundwater is found underground between layers of rock and soil, in underground aquifers. Aquifers underlie 81% of the state of Texas, supplying drinking water to 35% of Texas’ population.
Groundwater is also used for crop irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and other purposes, making it one of the most widely used and valuable natural resources we have. Consider the following facts:
- The U.S. uses 79.6 billion gallons of groundwater each day.
- Groundwater is 20 to 30 times larger than all U.S. lakes, streams, and rivers combined, accounting for 99% of all available fresh water in the U.S.
- The largest U.S. aquifer is Ogallala, underlying 250,000 square miles stretching from Texas to South Dakota. Scientists estimate it would take 6,000 years to refill the aquifer if it ever became depleted.
What happens when groundwater becomes contaminated?
Groundwater can become contaminated by human activity, including chemicals that are leaked or spilled through industrial activities like dry cleaning or creosoting operations, threatening the health and safety of residents living near the contaminated site. Groundwater can also interact with surface water, causing further contamination of our water sources.
Lone Star Legal Aid’s Environmental Justice Team represents low-income environmental justice communities where groundwater contamination or drinking water quality is a concern. Advocating for cleanup of contaminated groundwater, the EJ Team has been working alongside communities by submitting public comments to EPA and TCEQ regarding Superfund sites and RCRA permits, as well as through administrative actions and community engagement and education in order to provide a safer environment and ensure clean drinking water in our 72-county service area. This month’s EJ Newsletter features a story on the Jones Road Superfund Site, an area of northwest Harris County where groundwater contamination threatens a residential neighborhood.
If you have concerns about groundwater contamination or drinking water quality in your community, please contact the EJ Team at 713-652-3141 ext. 8108.
To subscribe to LSLA’s EJ Newsletter, text EJUSTICE to 22828.
Please visit www.ngwa.org/gwaw2019 for more information about National Groundwater Awareness Week.