Facts About Groundwater

What is groundwater and why is it important to me?Hydrologic Cycle


More than two million Marylanders obtain their water from groundwater. Groundwater is created from rain that soaks into the ground, which absorbs it like a sponge. It is a natural resource that is used for drinking, household purposes, irrigation, business and industry needs.

Water that soaks into the ground is filtered as it passes through various layers of sand, clay or rock, before discharging to streams, rivers or the Chesapeake Bay. Too often groundwater is taken for granted because it cannot be seen.

Groundwater is vulnerable to pollution by livestock areas, abandoned mines, salted roads, farming and industrial areas.  Homeowners also contribute to groundwater contamination by dumping household chemicals down the drain if they have a septic system or by pouring them on the ground.

Groundwater contaminated with bacteria, chemicals, pesticides, gasoline, or oil can result in serious human health problems.  Those who consume contaminated groundwater may suffer bacterial diseases, nervous system disorders, liver or kidney failure, cancer or other ailments depending on the contamination.

To protect groundwater be proactive in the upkeep of your home and yard:

  • Limit the amount of fertilizer used on plants.
  • If you own a septic system, service it according to local health department or manufacturer recommendations.
  • If you own a water well, get a yearly maintenance check to ensure sanitary seals are intact.
  • Consider having your water tested every couple of years or if you notice a change in color, odor or taste.
  • Check for leaky faucets and have them fixed.

To protect groundwater make simple changes to your everyday activities:

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Shut off water when brushing your teeth.
  • Run full loads of dishes and laundry.
  • Properly store hazardous household substances like paints, paint thinners, petroleum products, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and cleaning products in secure containers and do not empty hazardous household waste down the drain or the toilet.
  • Mix hazardous household substances over concrete or asphalt where they can be cleaned up or absorbed.

Addtional Information and Related Links:

Contact Information:

John Boris, Geologist, 410-537-3678 or John.Boris@maryland.gov