By Dave Dempsey
This week is the inaugural Source Water Protection Week. Although the term “source water” is unfamiliar to many, the resource to which it refers is critical to the health of millions of Michigan residents.
“Source water” refers to the untreated source of public drinking water supplies. For most municipal supplies in Michigan, source water is drawn from the Great Lakes, including Grand Rapids and metropolitan Detroit, although a few communities have river or inland lake water sources. Several large communities, such as Lansing and Mt. Pleasant, use groundwater as source water and serve about 1.7 million Michigan residents. (For about 1.25 million Michigan households serving 2.6 million residents, private well water is the source of drinking water.)
Drinking water sources for all Michigan communities served by public supplies can be found here.
Contamination of source water, over decades, has affected scores of Michigan communities, often at great public or private expense for treatment and cleanup. For example, a chemical facility and railroad paint shop threatened the groundwater well field serving Battle Creek, and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs. It is far cheaper to prevent contamination by keeping polluting facilities and activities away from source waters.
Individuals can also help prevent contamination of drinking water sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers ideas here.