Water can be divided into two types-groundwater and surface water. Surface water is the kind you can see--brooks, streams, rivers and lakes. Groundwater is a large underground body of water (on average, 30 feet below the surface of the earth).
Half of all Americans take their daily water supply from groundwater. Unfortunately, groundwater is more subject to contamination than surface water. Many biological processes operate in surface water, destroying contaminants. However, groundwater is different. Groundwater resides in a cool, dark region where few, if any, biological processes are active. Once groundwater is contaminated, it is difficult or impossible to clean up.
"There is considerable uncertainty about the extent to which groundwater is being protected," says a new report from the General Accounting Office: GROUNDWATER QUALITY: STATE ACTIVITIES TO GUARD AGAINST CONTAMINENTS. The 57 U.S. states and territories lack "uniform and consistent" groundwater quality protection policies and regulations. Twenty-six states have numeric standards to protect groundwater (an example: one state or another may allow 0.01 ppb of trichloroethylene); 38 states have narrative standards generally prohibiting the discharge of contaminants that might threaten groundwater; 23 states have both kinds of standards; 16 states (30%) have neither kind of standard. For a free copy of report GAO/PEMD-88-5, write GAO, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; phone (202) 275-6241.
If you want to help, or get help from, an environmental group
doing important work on groundwater protection, contact Velma
Smith at Environmental Policy Institute, 218 D St., SE,
Washington, DC 20003; phone (202) 544-2600.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: groundwater; regulations; surface water; water pollution; drinking water; regulations; water quality; environmental policy institute; gao; epa;