Water is essential to sustain life and is often used by scientists as an indication of life on other planets. Human beings cannot live without water for more than a few days, and this requires us to pay careful attention to water resource protection to protect our sources of water.
Drinking water is traditionally sourced from lakes, rivers, and streams which are based on the earth’s surface, or from wells that tap underground sources like aquifers. These water resources are always found contaminated with compounds like chemicals or minerals, which can be present naturally, or as a result of the activity of humans. Many of these polluting contaminants can be hazardous to humans, and we often have to purify the water, at great cost, to rid it of this pollution. Protecting water resources can greatly help to reduce these pollutants getting in the water sources, and reducing the need for filtration and purification to make the water potable.
Water resource protection involves protecting all surface and groundwater sources so that the pollution of water is prevented. Water sources on the surface are often directly exposed to the consequences of human activity, while groundwater does have the protection of the soil, through which the water percolates to aquifers. However, once wells are drilled to reach aquifers they become a point from which contaminants could enter, thus polluting the wells themselves.
The protection of water sources has been neglected in the past, leading to water resources getting contaminated and leading to the need for purification measures. Rehabilitation of aquifers that have been polluted is time-consuming and costly, and also leads to building up soil contamination after pathogenic contamination is removed.
Among the strategies that are now being employed to protect surface water sources (ponds, lakes, rivers, streams) is prevention, that endeavors to prevent the discharge of waste, untreated water, and pollutants that result from industrial, domestic, and agricultural use. Creation of buffer zones to prevent nutrients from fertilizers used in the practice of agriculture, and optimizing the use of water in this sector of human activity. Polluted water is treated prior to discharging it into surface water sources. Effective stormwater management ensures that run-off is not able to transfer pollutants to water bodies. Restoring ecosystems so that the natural rehabilitation process is enabled.
Similar preventive measures can help to protect groundwater sources. Wells are never dug or drilled close to any sources of pollution, and guidelines have been established to ensure that such wells remain over the flood level of rivers, are located close to the point of use, and where any water that is spilled is easily dispersed. Safe distances are maintained from dumping sites, septic tanks, or any source of pollution. Several specific measures are taken to prevent contaminants from entering the well. Wells are cased or lined so that any surface water or close to surface water enters the well. Wells are often fenced off to prevent animals from entering the zone and contaminating it. Rules for the use of the wells are indicated to the community so that the source remains free of contamination.