Understanding Groundwater: The Benefits and How We Can Preserve it

Did you know that today is World Water Day?

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Groundwater makes up almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world and is a valuable resource to mankind and environment

World Water Day, which was first observed in 1993, is celebrated on the 22nd of March every year.

This annual United Nations Observance Day celebrates water and raises the awareness that there are 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The theme for World Water Day 2022 is “Groundwater – Making the Invisible Visible” and in its efforts to achieve this, the focus is on highlighting the importance of groundwater which is often invisible, but its impact is widely visible. Groundwater plays a significant role in our daily lives and economic development while ensuring the sustainability of the environment.

What is groundwater?

Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock beneath the surface of the earth. These geological formations of soil, sand and rocks are called aquifers. The main processes of the groundwater cycle are the infiltration of rainwater into the soil and its flow within the rocks and finally its natural outflow at springs and into rivers. The developments in pumping technologies allow us to reach and make full use of groundwater where it can supplement water supplies in areas where surface water is limited.

In tropical Malaysia, groundwater storage is estimated to be 5000 billion cubic metres and only less than 2% of the present storage has been used[1]. The utilisation of groundwater in Malaysia is still relatively low at only 3% because surface water is the main source of water supply and most of the states in the country are using surface water to meet various water demands[2].

Understanding Groundwater: The Benefits and How We Can Preserve it
Koo Zao Cheong, Regional Business Development Manager of Waterco Malaysia said that it’s necessary to increase awareness of groundwater among Malaysians

The underutilisation of groundwater in Malaysia offers a high potential for future use and this is why it’s important to practise proper preservation. We must learn how to prevent groundwater pollution that may restrict and affect its prospective uses.

“Groundwater utilisation in the country may not be significant, but it is a potential resource that we can utilise in the future. It is necessary to increase the awareness of groundwater among Malaysians as an effort to preserve the resource,” said Koo Zao Cheong, Regional Business Development Manager of Waterco Malaysia, a leading one-stop solutions provider for safe and healthy water environment company.

 

Why is it important to preserve groundwater?

Groundwater in underground aquifers is the most indispensable water resource on earth. It plays many important roles in various areas where it preserves the environment and recharges surface water resources while supplying daily household water needs and at the same time, supports the economy in agriculture, food industry, irrigation and more.

If we do not take action to preserve groundwater, the largest source of usable water in the world, the viability of aquifers may be endangered which in turn will induce trouble in different sectors such as public health.

Our daily habits may incur unwanted groundwater contamination which can drain the aquifers faster than natural systems can replenish them and once an aquifer is dry, it is often lost forever as a source of water.

Here are some ways we can help to protect and preserve groundwater

Reduce household chemical use

Reduce household chemical use or switch to natural household cleaning products whenever possible. We are always in the mind that the harsher the chemicals, the better it is and the clearer things get. You may think that harsh chemicals can make your bathroom tiles shinier but it’s at the cost of the environment!

Understanding Groundwater: The Benefits and How We Can Preserve it
Reduce household chemical use or opt for natural cleaning products to reduce harm to groundwater

Household items such as lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar make for great cleaning too. Not only are they environmentally friendly but they also don’t break the bank!

For the green thumbs out there, try and limit the use of pesticides or fertilisers while tending to your garden. Choose safe and non-toxic biodegradable ingredients that don’t adversely affect nature.

Install a water filtration system

To play your role in preserving our natural resources, another useful tip is to install a water filtration system at home to filter used water before draining it out. This can help tremendously in sustaining the health of our groundwater, curbing contamination that may come from our homes.

“Every household could benefit from a competent water filtration system to prevent groundwater pollution. If every individual played their part in observing the practice of preservation, we wouldn’t have to worry about the sustainability of groundwater. Keeping it free from pollution is one of the best ways to keep the natural system alive and well,” said Koo.

Use water wisely to avoid water wastage

One of the most common bad practices that we need to break when it comes to water usage is keeping the tap running while brushing your teeth. According to the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), leaving the water running while brushing your teeth wastes an average of four gallons each time. In a four-person household, where each person brushes twice each day, that’s 32 gallons of water wasted. At the same time, be sure to check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps in your home for leaks to avoid water wastage and fix them right away should you need to.

Understanding Groundwater: The Benefits and How We Can Preserve it
It is best to filter used water before draining it to curb contamination of groundwater

As much as long showers are good for the soul, especially after a long day, challenge yourself by limiting the time you spend in the shower. You may possibly be using more water than you actually require. Also, remember to only press start on your washing machine when it’s loaded to its full capacity for peak water usage!

Properly dispose of toxic substances

Do not pour hazardous waste down the drain or on the ground as this could eventually contaminate groundwater. These hazardous wastes made of toxic substances include motor oil, paint, mothballs, household cleaners, as well as a number of medicines. We may want to save time and just get rid of unwanted waste by pouring liquids down the sink or just by chucking items into the bin but these actions are proven to be harmful and it’s best to dispose of them properly or at designated areas as advised by your local council.

Understanding Groundwater: The Benefits and How We Can Preserve it
Avoid disposing household chemicals and toxic substances directly into the sink as it will contaminate water resources

Reduce, reuse, and recycle

Reduce the usage of unnecessary products, reuse what we can, and be in the habit of recycling paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminium and other recyclable materials. By practising these 3 Rs, we are setting the motion to produce a cleaner and healthier water environment by reducing harmful contaminants from advancing toward our rivers, seas, and other water supplies.

If you want to do a little more to restore the natural systems, why not try a compost bin where you place organic waste to turn into compost which is an organic material that is added to soil to aid plant growth. When food scraps and garden waste are composted, less waste would end up in our waters and landfills. This sustainable way of life can leave a positive impact on the environment as a whole.

Groundwater is one of our most valuable and essential resources and it is our duty to protect and preserve this important resource for our children. Its vital role in maintaining the planet’s ecosystem must be emphasised and we must not take this important component of nature for granted. Groundwater needs to be properly managed and protected to ensure its sustainability and for individuals like you and me to help bring the importance of groundwater to the forefront, we need to get involved in water education so that we are better equipped in making decisions toward a clean and sustainable future.

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[1] Azuhan, M. (1999). Malaysian groundwater in the next millennium. Proceeding of Groundfos Dealers Conference, Shah Alam, Malaysia.

[2] Nur, H. H., Ismail, Y., & May, R. (2020). Comparison of Applications to Evaluate Groundwater Recharge at Lower Kelantan River Basin, Malaysia. Geosciences 2020, 10(8), 289.