by John P. Lane, Lee & Piece, Inc.

Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. Of all the freshwater in the world (excluding ice caps), 95 percent is groundwater. Groundwater is essential to the health and well-being of humanity and the environment. Whether you’re on a public water system or a private well, everyone has a vested interest in protecting this vital resource.

During an average year, groundwater represents 38 percent of the total water supply for the State of California. During dry years, groundwater contributes up to 46 percent or more of the statewide annual supply and serves as a critical buffer against the impacts of drought (California Department of Water Resources). Further, irrigation, which is the lifeblood of our agricultural industry, comprises about 80 percent of the total groundwater used (US Geological Survey 2009 report).

March 8-14, 2015 is National Groundwater Awareness week, which spotlights one of the world’s most important resources.

“Time to schedule your annual water well checkup!”

Just as you check your furnace or smoke detector batteries seasonally, spring is a good season to have an annual water well checkup before the peak water use season begins, according to the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

Why is it a good idea to have my water well checked annually?

An annual checkup by a qualified water well contractor is the best way to ensure problem-free service and quality water. Also, preventative maintenance usually is less costly than emergency maintenance, and good well maintenance can prolong the life of your well and related equipment. NGWA further recommends you test your water whenever there is a change in taste, odor, or appearance, or when the system is serviced.

Wells can provide high-quality drinking water, but with well ownership comes the responsibility of keeping the water well in good working order. A check of your well by a qualified water well contractor may include a flow test to determine system output and water levels, well equipment inspection to assure it is sanitary, and a test of your water for general water quality (odor, cloudiness, etc.) and for specific contaminants such as coliform bacteria, nitrates, heavy metals, or other local contaminants of concern.

Well owners should also consider the following tips:

  • Keep hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil far away from your well, and maintain a “clean” zone of at least 50 feet between your well and any kennels and livestock operations.
  • Maintain proper separation between your well and buildings, waste systems, and chemical storage areas.
  • Periodically check the well cover or well cap on top of the casing (well) to ensure it is in good repair and securely attached. Its seal should keep out insects and rodents.
  • Keep your well records in a safe place. These include the construction report, and annual water well system maintenance and water testing results.

A convenient source for a broader understanding of our groundwater can be found at www.wellowner.org, a Web service of NGWA. Contact the Oakdale Chamber Commerce, or browse our on-line Business Directory, for a referral to a Chamber member specializing in wells and/or pumps.

The continuing drought condition in California has intensified local discussions related to our groundwater, surface water, and related regulation. The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce invites you to attend the 42nd Annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon at the Gene Bianchi Community Center on Thursday, March 19, 2015, where the topic will be “Three Major Threats to Water Rights.”