If you value your life, you should value groundwater, the National Ground Water Association suggested as it announced National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 6-12.

Quite literally, life as we know it would not be possible without groundwater, and the association provided links to a large amount of information to explain the use and need to protect groundwater reserves including state groundwater use data.

National Groundwater Awareness Week is a time to take stock of this most important natural resource,” said NGWA Director of General Public Outreach Cliff Treyens.

“In times of drought or groundwater contamination — when people are noticeably affected — the value of groundwater becomes clear,” said Treyens. “The principle behind what Benjamin Franklin said two centuries ago remains true today: ‘When the well runs dry, we shall know the value of water.’”

It is estimated that groundwater makes up an estimated 99 percent of all freshwater in the world. At a national level, the United States uses:

  • 76 billion gallons of groundwater a day (bgd) for all purposes
  • 49.5 bgd for agricultural irrigation
  • 15.7 bgd for public water supplies
  • 3.5 bgd for individual households through privately owned water wells
  • 3 bgd for livestock and aquaculture
  • 2.9 bgd for industry (self-supplied)
  • 1.1 bgd for mining
  • Nearly 600 million gallons per day for thermoelectric power generation.

(Click here for state groundwater-use breakdowns — click on the appropriate state and then click on “groundwater use.”)

Because groundwater is “out of sight, out of mind” for most, National Groundwater Awareness Week provides a convenient opportunity for people to learn about the importance of groundwater to their lives, said Treyens. He urged the public to visit NGWA’s groundwater fundamentals web page, as well as its website, WellOwner.org, where well owners can learn information vital to take care of their water quality and their wells.

Here are some more interesting groundwater facts:

  • The 79.3 bgd a day used in the United States equals 1 billion, 586 million bathtubs full of water, enough to circle the Earth more than 60 times
  • India is the largest groundwater user in the world, using 66.3 trillion gallons in one year — enough water to fill an 18-inch-diameter pipeline to the Moon and back — 2,000 times
  • Groundwater is under most of the Earth’s surface
  • Under Africa’s Sahara Desert, there’s 20 times more groundwater than all the surface water in the entire continent’s lakes.