SUNDAY marks the beginning of National Groundwater Awareness Week [NGAW].
Although it is an American concept, NGAW deserves worldwide recognition because of the importance of groundwater, which is the world's most extracted natural resource.
The purpose of NGAW is to highlight the responsible management and use of groundwater and to raise awareness of the need to regularly monitor our groundwater for quality and sustainable rates of extraction.
Groundwater is the water that seeps into the ground after rain. It accumulates in cracks and pores in rocks (aquifers).
Approximately two percent of the earth's water occurs as groundwater. In Australia groundwater makes up approximately 17 per cent of accessible water and accounts for over 30 per cent of Australia's total water consumption.
Future use of groundwater in Australia is predicted to rise especially as surface water resources may diminish because of climate change and prolonged drought.
We use groundwater in a variety of ways. It is widely used as a main source of drinking water for many cities and towns. It is also used for irrigation, agriculture and industrial use.
Groundwater from natural springs is bottled for commercial purposes and is also used in the bottling of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages such as beer.
Natural ecosystems rely on groundwater. In many parts of Australia native flora and fauna rely on groundwater for their survival. Groundwater also directly contributes to rivers and lakes, often maintaining surface water bodies in times of drought.
Large-scale mining operations frequently depend on groundwater for their operations, especially in the arid areas of Australia.