Fresh water is one of our most important natural resources because it’s needed for survival, and there is no substitute for it. Unlike energy, which has many alternative forms, there are no alternatives for water. Most of our earth is covered by water, but only a tiny amount is available for fresh water.
The amount of accessible fresh water varies from country to country and region to region. The United States has an abundant amount of water, but many regions have shortages. Groundwater is very important to these parts of the world, as it is used for farming and drinking in these areas.
Groundwater helps these areas tremendously and has to be used in normal quantities as they are liable to run out, which causes many problems such as sinkholes, human displacement, and soil becoming useless for agricultural purposes. Even though tapping aquifers is a practical idea, it has some setbacks as it can have disastrous effects if polluted or overused. Groundwater originates as water or melting snow that seeps into the soil and finds its way down through cracks and spaces in rock until it is stopped by an impermeable layer of rock, where it forms as groundwater.
The porous layers of underground rock in which groundwater is stored are called aquifers. These aquifers can either be confined or unconfined. The aquifers that are replenished by surface water directly above them are called unconfined. Confined aquifers are water deposits that are trapped between two layers of impermeable rock, sometimes called artesian wells. The water in an artesian well is under extreme pressure and is often the most popular choice for wells as you can estimate the amount of water in them and be very accurate.
There are many advantages to using groundwater for household water and farming in many parts of the world. In a desert, there are very few waterways, making living here nearly impossible. With underground water supplies, you can access water that does not take up surface water, which is valuable for farming land. In small countries, this is particularly important as more area for farming is better. When surface water, such as rivers and lakes, is used for household and drinking water, many lakes’ water levels are lowered to dangerously low levels, which could kill many types of animal species in these areas. The water has an abundance of minerals in it, which are lost when the water level goes down and cannot be leached into the soil from lakes and rivers.
When living in large metropolitan areas such as Tucson, Miami, Phoenix, and Memphis, where there are not many lakes located in the middle of the cities, they have to get their water from somewhere else. Without groundwater, many cities in this area would not exist as there are no fresh water sources nearby, causing them to have to drill for water. The use of groundwater also helps nature by preventing flooding. When areas need water, they look to surface water, and if there is none, they use groundwater. If there is not much water in an area, they will dam the water source, which can flood the land and kill many animals and their homes.
By using groundwater, they save animal homes and get good drinking water. However, groundwater also has its problems. There may be more problems than advantages if groundwater is used excessively. When an aquifer is drained enough, the earth around it will start to lose its support, causing sinkholes. These can cause a lot of damage to personal property and endanger human life. In Winter Park, Florida, a sinkhole occurred that was 400 feet wide and 125 feet deep.
Sinkholes can happen in seconds and often have no warning before they appear. Many regions that experience sinkholes do not feel their full effects. This is because the land sinks over periods of time, which most people cannot detect. However, studies have shown that in the last 40 years in Texas, lands on the Ogallala aquifer have sunk to levels up to 21 m. Overuse of an aquifer near coastal areas can cause saltwater intrusion, which happens when an aquifer is depleted faster than it can replenish itself. This causes water from the oceans to filter into the system.