Water: A Finite Resource


Water Finite

It’s essential for:

  • Sanitation
  • Protection from the spread of disease and infection
  • Fire suppression
  • Crop irrigation
  • Food processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Cooling for energy production
  • Economic development
  • Quality of life

But, just three percent of the Earth’s water supply is freshwater – and most of that is ice in the form of glaciers.

Aquifers: The Importance of Groundwater

Groundwater, contained in shallow portions of aquifers, accounts for approximately 30 percent of our usable, freshwater. And, in some areas – such as Florida, where aquifers supply more than 90 percent of the state’s freshwater – these priceless underground resources provide a much larger percentage of a region’s freshwater.

Aquifers recharge when new, surface water enters them through precipitation, snowmelt and streamflow. But freshwater levels in many aquifers are declining. That’s because the amount of water being pumped is exceeding the aquifers’ abilities to recharge.

  • Population growth
  • Agricultural needs
  • Increases in industry and development


A Gradual Lowering of the Water Table

If water utilities aren’t detecting and repairing the leaks in their underground distribution systems, and if they aren’t successfully regulating their system’s water pressure, they’re pumping more water than needed from rivers, streams and aquifers. This excessive pumping of surface and groundwater is gradually lowering the water table in many areas, slowly reducing the Earth’s supply of usable water.

A 2015 analysis of the nation’s groundwater by USA Today and The Desert Sun using U.S. Geological Survey data for more than 32,000 wells over a period of two decades showed that:

  • Nationwide, water levels have declined in 64 percent of the wells listed in the database.
  • Water tables have been falling consistently over the years, even in wet states like Florida and Maryland.
  • The average decline has been more than 10 feet.
  • In some areas, including areas in Maryland, the water table has dropped more than 100 feet.
  • Even in parts of the Northeast, where rainfall and snowmelt have helped to offset pumping from aquifers, there have been “significant” declines.
  • In Cumberland County New Jersey, average water levels have decreased nearly six feet.
  • Urban areas such as Long Island, NY, also have experienced long-term declines in their groundwater levels.


Lower Water Levels Bring Higher Vulnerability

As the level of water in an aquifer decreases, the aquifer becomes more vulnerable to contamination from:

  • Salt water (especially in coastal areas)
  • Biological waste (manure and septic tank discharge)
  • Industrial chemicals (pesticides and petroleum products)

According to the analysis by USA Today and The Desert Sun, saltwater has been infiltrating declining aquifers in Florida, in coastal cities such as Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa.

And, once an aquifer is compromised, it’s very difficult to restore it. Water authorities may then be faced with digging new wells or investing in desalination technology.

540 Technologies Helps Utilities Become More Environmentally Responsible

We’ll help you detect and pinpoint the leaks in your distribution network, assess the condition of your underground pipes and better control your system’s pressure, helping you avoid unnecessary pumping of preserve surface water and groundwater.

Learn More

Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure, a public service media project of Penn State Public Broadcasting, 2008.

Pumped Beyond Limits, Many U.S. Aquifers in Decline,” USA Today and Desert Sun, by Ian James and Steve Reilly, December 10, 2015

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