Groundwater is important to people for two very simple reasons. It is predominantly the water that we drink, and it is the water that nurtures and supports, either directly or indirectly, the food that we eat. Can we legitimately consider any natural resource, beside the oxygen in the air that we breathe, to be more important than that?
The water supplied through our municipal faucets may come from several immediately previous sources, such as water supply dams, reclamation facilities and neighboring rivers. But all of those supplies ultimately receive their water, in whatever condition, from natural groundwater sources. The lakes backed up behind water supply dams and all rivers, whether natural or man-made, get a small percentage of their waters directly from rainfall. The majority of the waters they receive precipitate in their catchment areas, soak into the ground, then percolate through the upper layers of the ground, which is generally porous, emerging into these above ground bodies of water. Even this is usually only a small amount of the regions rainfall; most remains underground, either suspended in the regions soil as the water table or entering into subterranean flows, underground rivers and streams, or deep, dark and crystal pure lakes.
All of the bottled water we may purchase and drink comes from groundwater sources. Every spring supplies water emerging from the ground. The most expensive are so priced because the emerging water has been underground for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.
Even reclaimed water, while in large part from our cities’ waste and storm water infrastructure, and fed through filtering and purification systems, receives a significant groundwater component to dilute it and therefore enhance water quality.
In underdeveloped countries the surface water in ponds, lakes and rivers is often contaminated. When this is not from agricultural chemicals absorbed in above ground run-off, it is due to parasitic insect larvae or pathogenic (disease causing) microbes. Open and enclosed wells provide not only the majority of relatively clean water in these nations, but in many of the rural regions of the more developed nations as well.
All of our planet’s plant life, whether domestic crop species or that flourishing in the wilder aspects, sink their roots into the ground seeking water. They are only able to grow and flourish through transpiration, sucking water from under the ground and evaporating it on the surface of their leaves. This process also procures them the nutrients they require for photosynthesis, which supplies the oxygen people and animals breathe, and the organic molecules that supply the energy requirement of all life, whether plant, animal or human.
We readily recognize that water is essential to life; we frequently fail to realize that this is the water emerging from the land rather than that falling upon it.