Groundwater is a major source of drinking water in the world, in United States for instance, groundwater is a main source of drinking water for roughly half of the total population. Groundwater pollution could therefore seriously reduce the amount of drinking water worldwide.
Groundwater pollution is often refereed to as the groundwater contamination and refers to the introduction of different pollutants (contaminants) into groundwater. These pollutants make the groundwater unclean and unsafe for drinking as well as unsuitable for different other particular purposes.
Cleaning groundwater pollution is very costly, in the most severe cases aquifer can be contaminated up to such level that it needs to be abandoned, meaning that the community must find a completely new supply of water which is extremely difficult and costs a lot of money.
The sources of groundwater pollution are usually classified by its origin and the four most common types of groundwater pollution include municipal, agricultural, industrial and individual groundwater pollution.
The infamous example of groundwater pollution was Love Canal where in 1978 its residents noticed high rates of cancer and an alarming number of birth defects because of the organic solvents and dioxins from an industrial landfill which had contaminated the groundwater.
Each and every one of us can do something to prevent groundwater pollution by disposing hazardous materials like oil, paint, medicaments, and solvents responsibly in a facility which is certified to handle such materials.
One of the most frequent groundwater pollutants in industrialized countries is Vinyl chloride which can cause cancer in people.
Reliable and accurate estimation of the exact type of groundwater pollution sources is still a major challenge in cleaning efforts because of the many uncertainties involved and the lack of adequate observation data in most cases. Some scientists have even proposed the idea of using computer algorithms to identify exact sources of groundwater pollution.
Groundwater pollution is usually cleaned by using bioremediation technologies which involves using microbes to clean up organic contaminants in water supply. In most of these cases microbes feed off the organic contaminants and, in the process, convert them to non-toxic products.
Some groundwater pollution occurs naturally which is the case with arsenic commonly found in the sediments of the rock. Arsenic poisoning of the groundwater is especially serious issue in Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. According to a 2009 study more than 140 million people in southern Asia drink groundwater contaminated with arsenic every day.