Conserve water to protect your groundwater resource during drought
By Fred M. Hall
Wichita County Extension Agent
During periods of severe drought, groundwater resources are relied upon to provide water. With the current interest in drilling new water wells, local residents should remember that the combination of increased pumping and the loss of recharge often results in lowered water table elevations. Extension Program Specialist Kristine Uhlman notes that some aquifers are less reliant on recent recharge and/or may be responding to climate conditions that occurred during decades prior to the current drought. Regardless of the cause of lowered water tables, there are several best management practices recommended to protect your water supply.
Monitor your pump. Rapid cycling of the pump on and off over short periods of time is the result of lowered water tables and slow static water level recovery. Rapid pump cycling will burn out the motor. Heat generated by a submersible pump in lowered water tables can damage the drop—pipe if it is constructed of PVC. Allow your pump to rest or, if possible, throttle down your pumping rate.
If pumping causes the sound of “sucking air,” shut down the pump and allow it to rest. When the water table is drawn down below the pump intake, the well may begin to produce sand. If you notice sand in the toilet tank, the well is in danger of going dry and the pump will likely be damaged. A milky appearance of the water that clears upon standing also can occur when the pump draws air and may be an indication that the water level has dropped.
Depending on the overall depth of the well, lowering the pump may be an option. Check with a licensed pump installer. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation maintains an online database of licensed well drillers and pump installers; the list is available through http://www.license.state.tx.us/LicenseSearch.
As the water table drops and pulls air (oxygen) into the aquifer, the chemistry of the water will change. Sometimes exposing the aquifer to oxygen dissolves naturally occurring arsenic and may cause arsenic concentrations to increase. For example, if well water normally contains low concentrations of arsenic, expect concentrations to increase during drought and plan to sample the well water on a regular basis during and after the drought. Concentrations of other water quality parameters, such as TDS (salinity) may also change.
Lowered pumping rates and storage may protect well equipment and your groundwater resource.
Working with neighbors to schedule common or heavy water use may help. For example, if everyone in a neighborhood typically does laundry on Saturday, wells may begin to go dry Sunday. Distributing the schedule of heavy water use over the week may allow individual wells to recover and sustain water supply in your neighborhood.
Practice water conservation to protect your groundwater resource during times of drought.
To help all residents remember our collective commitment to water conservation. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Wichita County encourages every family to participate in the 40 Gallon Challenge. The 40 Gallon Challenge is a program that calls on residents and businesses to reduce their average water use by 40 gallons per day.
The 40-Gallon Challenge allows Texans to compete against other Americans who are taking the challenge in their states. At the program’s website, www.40gallonchallenge.org, families can pledge to adopt water-saving practices and see how many gallons of water they can expect to save.
The website also shows the most popular practices being pledged, the practices that are saving the most water daily, and counties and states that are pledging the most daily savings.
If you check the Texas map, it is beginning to change colors as more people sign up to participate in the 40 Gallon Challenge being issued by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. So far Wichita County has six families that have pledged to save 829 gallons of water daily.
To start saving water, take the challenge, by going to the website and completing the checklist of water-saving practices. The checklist includes both indoor and outdoor water-saving tips. Let’s set a goal to save a million gallons of water every month.