Montanans Urged to Protect Valuable Groundwater - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montanans Urged to Protect Valuable Groundwater

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MISSOULA -

About 900,000 Montanans rely on groundwater, and on Tuesday, state officials are encouraging Montana residents to protect that water supply as part of "Protect Your Groundwater Day."

Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials said Montanans can protect their groundwater by keeping it safe from contamination.

Joe Meek of the DEQ said, "We all live downstream from something or somebody, so it's important to know the quality of our drinking water, which mostly comes from groundwater."

Mountain Water employee Ross Miller said in Missoula, an underground aquifer provides nearly every resident's drinking water.

"Our groundwater is fairly shallow here in Missoula, it tends to range from 30-50 feet below ground surface, is where our water table is going to be," Miller said.

Mountain Water officials said the Missoula aquifer provides fresh drinking water and water for sprinkler systems for about 60,000 residents in the Missoula area.

Tens of thousands of years ago, flood waters from Glacial Lake Missoula washed tons of sediment into the valley, which created the aquifer.

"Our rivers and streams, in places they leak, they recharge the aquifer," Miller said.

Miller said Mountain Water owns 35 wells, where electric pumps pull water from the aquifer and distribute it throughout the Missoula Valley.

He explained, "It's going to be filtered through the soils before it gets to groundwater, so it basically acts as a natural filter."

But, while the glacial sediments provide a natural filter, Ross said they're still very porous and can allow foreign substances through.

DEQ officials said residents and businesses should ensure the proper maintenance of water wells and septic systems, which can easily contaminate groundwater.

Miller added, "Leaks and spills of contaminants at the surface can find their way into the groundwater."

DEQ officials said thousands of Montanans also use groundwater for agricultural purposes. They said it's important for residents to properly dispose of fertilizers and pesticides, and other potentially hazardous substances.

"It's a resource to the benefit of Missoulians and Montana as well."

State officials said it's also important for residents to conserve valuable groundwater sources, because droughts are a growing concern for much of southwestern Montana and across the U.S.

For more information about protecting groundwater, click here.

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