Groundwater and Wellhead Protection
Many people do not realize that groundwater is always moving through the soil. It may travel inches per day or only a few feet per year. Eventually some of it finds its way into our lakes and streams. This is why rivers and streams continue to flow even long after the last rain. Groundwater is very important in maintaining streamflows during summer droughts and in maintaining cool temperatures for rivers and lakes.
Groundwater is also vital to us humans. Approximately 44% of the people in Michigan get their drinking water from groundwater wells. In the Upper Grand River Watershed almost all of us do… some of us from wells in our backyards, and some of us from wells that supply drinking water for an entire town or city.
Although the soil tends to filter out some pollutants, others can be washed into our groundwater aquifers with rain and melting snow as they percolate through the ground. Wellhead protection is a variety of actions individuals and communities can take to prevent drinking water from becoming polluted.
Wellhead protection generally begins by determining the area that supplies water to an individual well or well field. Since groundwater is moving there defining a wellhead protection area or zone includes factors of both area and time. So, a community may delineate the area that contributes water to their well over a short-period of time, but they may also determine larger area that contributes water over a longer period (e.g., a 10-year time of travel).
After delineating the wellhead protection area a community may also develop plans for managing potential sources of contamination, monitoring for the presence of specific contaminants, and plans to limit certain land uses within the wellhead protection zone (see blue sidebar, this page, for individual community plans/maps). These actions, coupled with public education (see Jackson's new Public Service Announcements [1 and 2]} protect public health and avoid the expense of treating polluted water or drilling new wells. Although wellhead protection is primarily designed to protect our drinking water and health, you can see that it also benefits the Upper Grand River.