Protecting aquifers

Aquifers are underground areas of groundwater that provide water for drinking, agriculture use, and industrial use.

Protecting aquifers is important. The water supply gets polluted when contaminants — like chemicals or manure — seep into groundwater. 

The quantity of groundwater needs protection too. Groundwater levels can decline if too much water is pumped from an aquifer.

What are aquifers?

Aquifers are layers of underground rock that are saturated with water. Water from rainfall, snow-melt, lakes, streams, and wetlands seeps into the ground and collects in the spaces in between the rock, similar to water in a sponge. Wells are drilled into aquifers to extract water for homes, businesses, agriculture, and industries.

Why are aquifers important?

A large portion of drinking water comes from aquifers. Polluted aquifers can lead to health risks such as contaminated water and ingestion of toxic chemicals.

What are we doing to protect aquifers?

Ecology provides guidance and technical assitance so cities and counties can designate the land as critical for their aquifers. This designation of a critical area or groundwater managment area can add special protections to help prevent contamination, focus cleanup resources or source control efforts, and ensure that enough water is reaching the aquifer.   

Also, we provide water quality standards to ensure that businesses follow rules designed to prevent groundwater contamination. And we help provide technical assistance for cleaning up contaminated groundwater and spill response.

How can you help protect aquifers?

Preventing contamination is far less expensive than cleaning up contaminated groundwater. Everybody can help by limiting their use of fertilizers and pesticides. You can also be sure to dispose of chemicals properly at a waste facility and do not dump them on the ground, down a well, or into a septic system.