The Drinking Water Source We Forget: Telling the Story of Groundwater

Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor

By Dave Dempsey

During national Drinking Water Week (May 3-9), how can we overlook one of our major drinking water sources?

A resident of Lansing for many years, I once asked several local friends where they thought the city’s drinking water came from. Two said the Grand River, one said “a reservoir someplace.”

All three were wrong, but they deserve no blame. They are among many Michiganders who don’t know that 45% of the state’s population depends on groundwater for drinking, bathing and household uses.

That proportion includes major urban complexes like Lansing and Kalamazoo, and 99% of rural residents of the state, who depend on their own individual wells.

As is the case with surface water sources of drinking water, those who depend on city or individual wells cannot always count on the water that comes out of their taps to be safe for consumption. In fact, individual wells may pose a greater risk, because there is no routine government monitoring of them for contaminants. Utilities that provide groundwater-sourced drinking water must test and analyze frequently.

FLOW has made a major commitment to protect groundwater as a drinking water source. Our report, The Sixth Great Lake, details the contamination issues menacing Michigan’s groundwater and offers solutions. 

The first step toward solutions is awareness. To advance public knowledge of groundwater, we’ve created a story map that illustrates the wonder as well as the waste of this resource. Groundwater springs feed the headwaters of rivers. A steady flow of cold, clean groundwater is essential to the health and productivity of trout streams and supports rare wetlands. And of course, it supplies vital drinking water for millions of Michiganders.

We encourage you to start a journey toward groundwater awareness with the story map, and proceed from there to learn about the drinking water that groundwater supplies. In the end, only a well-informed citizenry can assure our groundwater is protected. Join us in calling for the public policy and private practice reforms that will assure safe, clean drinking water for over four million Michiganders.

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