In New York State, Groundwater plays a vital role in providing not only drinkable water to residents, but also irrigation water to the large amount of agriculture that takes place there. Groundwater use in New York State breaks down like this:
- 1,870,000 residents are served by privately owned individual wells. This works out to 824,342 households.
- 1667 community water systems use groundwater for 3,936,455 people.
According to the National Ground Water Association, groundwater usage in New York State is approximately 867 million gallons per day. Much of that services the public water supply, but about 140 million gallons per day (16% of total) of this water usage is for private drinking wells. Livestock and Agriculture make up another 35 million gallons per day of usage (4% of total usage). The rest of the water is used in public supplies (58%), irrigation, mining, thermoelectric, and various other industrial uses.
Agricultural production is a massive part of the economy, and approximately 7 million acres of the state are devoted to farmland. Many types of crops are grown, often in support of the dairy industry. Dairy is New York’s leading agricultural product – milk sales account for over one-half of the total agricultural income. All those cows produce a lot of waste, and there are many large-scale feed operations that are producing 32 MILLION tons or more of manure per year. Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (otherwise known as CAFO’s), can be found throughout the state of New York (see map).
All of that manure can find it’s way into groundwater relatively easily, especially considering the changing weather that has produced many more heavy rainfall and flooding events in recent years. These weather trends are more likely to get worse than better in the near future. Groundwater protection is an important part of the solution going forward, as is regular water testing of your own well to ensure that your family’s water supply is safe from potential contaminants.
If you are interested in finding out more information about groundwater in New York State, the National Ground Water Association has an excellent library of information available on their website.