Challenge

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Ridding Groundwater of Contaminants

Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source. Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants make their way into an aquifer, rendering it unsafe for human use. Currently, ridding groundwater of contaminants can be difficult to impossible, as well as costly.
132M
People Impacted
$ 111B
Potential Funding
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the problem
Nature and Context

When rain falls and seeps deep into the earth, filling the cracks, crevices, and porous spaces of an aquifer (basically an underground storehouse of water), it becomes groundwater—one of our least visible but most important natural resources. Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source. It is also one of the most important sources of water for irrigation.

Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants—from pesticides and fertilizers to waste leached from landfills and septic systems—make their way into an aquifer, rendering it unsafe for human use.

Symptoms and Causes

Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts, chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use.

Ridding groundwater of contaminants can be difficult to impossible, as well as costly. Once polluted, an aquifer may be unusable for decades, or even thousands of years. Groundwater can also spread contamination far from the original polluting source as it seeps into streams, lakes, and oceans.

the impact
Negative Effects

Drinking contaminated groundwater can have serious health effects. Diseases such as hepatitis and dysentery may be caused by contamination from septic tank waste. Poisoning may be caused by toxins that have leached into well water supplies. Wildlife can also be harmed by contaminated groundwater. Other long term effects such as certain types of cancer may also result from exposure to polluted water.

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