“Groundwater — making the invisible visible” is the theme of World Water Day this year.
“Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere,” says the World Water Day website. “Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches our lives.” The site also notes that “we must protect groundwater from pollution and use it sustainably, balancing the needs of people and the planet.”
Both Louisville Water and the Louisville Water Foundation support efforts to protect source water. Spencer Bruce, President of the Foundation and President & CEO of Louisville Water, serves on the board of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), which works to control pollution and protect water quality in the Ohio River Basin.
The Foundation provides grants to organizations that promote sustainability and the practices that help achieve it, such as keeping watersheds clean and managing hazardous waste, including runoff into storm drains.
Groundwater protection is especially important for our B.E. Payne Treatment Plan, which relies on riverbank filtration, an approach that uses the sand and gravel in the earth as a natural filter. To collect groundwater, Louisville Water designed and constructed a mile-and-half-long tunnel in bedrock, 150 feet below the ground surface and parallel to the Ohio River. Above the tunnel, four wells collect the filtered water and then send it to the tunnel. An above-ground pump station pulls the water to the treatment plant.
Completed in 2010, the project was unique because Louisville Water was the first water utility in the world to combine a gravity tunnel with wells as a source for drinking water. We can now pump up to 70 million gallons of water a day with the riverbank filtration project.
World Water Day, held on March 22 every year, is a United Nations Observance that began in 1993. It both celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people worldwide who do not have access to safe water.