Groundwater pollution may be an overlooked aspect of Arizona water issues

PHOENIX — You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers, which are porous rock that contain or transport water.

About 40% of the state’s water supply is underground, with that number likely to increase due to reductions in available water from the Colorado River. Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, said the reliance on the resource stems from Arizona’s geography.

“A lot of Arizona does not have a convenient surface water supply, but we did have water in the ground,” Porter said.

An ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource got contaminated. Thankfully, according to Porter, much of Arizona is regulated to catch dangerous chemicals and pollutants before reaching the water we drink.

Dr. Rebecca Muenich, associate professor of environmental engineering at ASU, points out a different dilemma. Those same standards don’t apply to private wells. “This is, in turn, a problem because about a third of those wells exceed human health based standards for one or more pollutants,” Muenich said.

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