The kids in the illustration know it: groundwater is freshwater stored underground. Science defines it as water that exists underground in saturated zones beneath the land surface (USGS). The saturated zones are the areas where water mixes with sand and gravel or fills the cracks and cavities of below surface rock.
Groundwater is a major source of drinking water. Almost 300 million Americans get their water from public drinking water systems. And most of these systems use groundwater as a source of water. Having access to it is essential. But how did it get there?
The science on how groundwater is recharged is evolving. Still, we're told that groundwater replenishes only through the atmospheric water cycle. We're taught that "water at the Earth's surface evaporates into water vapor which rises up into the sky to become part of a cloud which will float off with the winds, eventually releasing water back to Earth as precipitation" (USGS).
While the above correctly describes the atmospheric water cycle, there’s growing scientific evidence that it's only part of planet Earth’s water story.
In fact, arecent studysuggests that groundwater is now the largest continental water reservoir ahead of global ice sheets & glaciers. So, it doesn’t look like groundwater will run out any time soon.
It’s easy to access when it emerges naturally as a spring. We can tap into it right there or further downstream. In more arid regions, groundwater is pumped up from the deep. This can be done through digging a well by hand or drilling using heavy machinery.
In the United States, 40% of groundwater is used for public supply. The remaining goes to agriculture and other water-intensive industries. These include paint and coating manufacturing, alkali and chlorine manufacturing, paper mills, wineries, pesticide and other agricultural chemical producers.
This high demand for water and the release of these products into the environment creates major challenges. One of them is the contamination of aquifers.
The Groundwater Foundation reports that half of our drinking water comes from well water. This makes groundwater contamination a major concern. Reports often describe it as an isolated or local problem. Yet, it’s still difficult to estimate the extent of contamination on a national level. Underreporting and a lack of resources for monitoring groundwater quality make matters worse. It’s also very difficult and often too expensive to clean up polluted aquifers. Plus, laws and regulations to address groundwater contamination often have ulterior objectives. There are many sources of groundwater pollution such as from:
storage tanks containing fuels, chemicals, and other types of liquids that are stored above or below ground
septic systems for wastewater disposal used by homes, and other buildings that are not connected to a municipal sewer system
uncontrolled hazardous waste from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
landfills where our garbage is taken and buried
road salts to improve road conditions during the cold season
chemicals used to make herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer and other products used in homes and businesses
atmospheric contaminants from air pollution that accumulate in bodies of surface water
Effective methods to deal with our waste aren’t in place. There will always be the next leak. So as long as our water supply heavily depends on precipitation alone things won’t improve. But there’s an alternative.
Groundwater vs Primary Water
This is when we need to talk about primary water. Compared to the groundwater described above, primary water has a few superior characteristics:
Its waters do not come from or connect to the atmospheric water cycle (see under Sources And Uses Of Groundwater above). It doesn’t come from rain. Instead, primary water originates far below the saturated zones, deep in the Earth’s mantle. And there is more than an ocean of it.
Also called juvenile or magmatic water, primary water is a regenerative water source. It’s perpetually created under high pressure within the Earth’s crust. Looking at it on a human time scale - primary water will never run dry.
Primary water is pressurized. It finds it’s way up through cracks and fissures, sometimes breaking through the surface as a spring. Examples for primary water springs are the Figeh Spring in Syria, the Montezuma Well in Arizona, or the springs at Mount Whitney in California.
Unlike groundwater, primary water isn’t impacted from precipitation & droughts. It’s perpetually created deep within the Earth’s mantel. This fact should quiet down water scarcity alarmists and is good news for water security worldwide.
Primary water is free of contamination from human activity. It has never been part of the atmospheric hydrological cycle. Primary water was never exposed to human-caused air pollution, ground pollution, or radiation from nuclear testing.
Primary water is independent from the local water table. A primary water well may be deeper or more shallow than the surrounding water table. This means that local water use allocations are irrelevant as drawing water from a primary water well doesn’t impact groundwater levels.
For all the characteristics above, when it comes to quality, accessibility, and reliability, primary water is superior versus relying on potentially contaminated and finite groundwater. So how do you access primary water?
Sometimes adowsermay be all you need to find water. But to be sure it’s primary water, aspecial processand survey equipment is needed. It usually starts with collecting relevant project data. You gather topographical and geological maps as well as any existing water well borelogs and hydrochemical reports on the area.
The next step is a lineament mapping and fracture trace analysis. This is done remotely and helps to identify faults, fissures and fracture zones.
Then a team equipped with a geophysical system for wide-area survey is sent out. This can be done by walking, in a vehicle, or even from a drone. The equipment uses a gamma scintillation counter along with a passive seismic device. This method verifies the location of wet versus dry fracture zones.
After analyzing this data, specific sites can be greenlit for drilling. A precise drill job will produce a clean, renewable and sustainable drinking water well.
“At no time is water static. It is constantly changing form. It is either a liquid or gas, or it is bound up in crystalline form in rocks and minerals. The cycle of gas to liquid to crystal is repeated over and over. Oxygen and hydrogen combine under the electromechanical forces of the Earth to form liquid water. Not only is water being constantly formed within the earth, but also rocks, minerals, and oil. What I seek is water in its liquid state."
The volume of groundwater is not limited by the atmospheric water cycle. This limitation feeds into scarcity thinking. It fuels the narrative that our drinking water supply is confined to the water falling from the skies. Every year, there ismore evidencethat Earth itself generates water deep underground. Primary water is and always was part of our planet’s hydrological cycle.
Many local and global water crisis can be dissolved when factoring in primary water as a solution. This renewable resource can no longer be ignored and anyone can get aprimary water surveydone. So why not find out whether your land or home is located near a clean and renewable water source?