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Fidel Ribera Urenda
The importance of groundwater has become particularly evident in the late 20th and early 21st centuries due to its increased use in many human activities. In this time frame, vertical wells have emerged as the most common, effective, and controlled system for obtaining water from aquifers, replacing other techniques such as drains and spring catchments.
One negative effect of well abstraction is the generation of an inverted, conically shaped depression around the well, which grows as water is pumped and can negatively affect water quantity and quality in the aquifer. An increase in the abstraction rate of a specific well or, as is more common, an uncontrolled increase of the number of active wells in an area, could lead to overexploitation of the aquifer’s long-term groundwater reserves and, in some specific contexts, impact water quality. Major examples can be observed in arid or semi-arid coastal areas around the world that experience a high volume of tourism, where aquifers hydraulically connected with the sea are overexploited. In most of these areas, an excessive abstraction rate causes seawater to penetrate the inland part of the aquifer. This is known as marine intrusion. Another typical example of undesirable groundwater management can be found in many areas of intensive agricultural production. Excessive use of fertilizer is associated with an increase in the concentration of nitrogen solutions in groundwater and soils. In these farming areas, well design and controlled abstraction rates are critical in preventing penetrative depression cones, which ultimately affect water quality.
To prevent any negative effects, several methods for aquifer management can be used. One common method is to set specific abstraction rules according to the hydrogeological characteristics of the aquifer, such as flow and chemical parameters, and its relationship with other water masses. These management plans are usually governed by national water agencies with support from, or in coordination with, private citizens.
Transboundary or international aquifers require more complex management strategies, demanding a multidisciplinary approach, including legal, political, economic, and environmental action and, of course, a precise hydrogeological understanding of the effects of current and future usage.
What Is Public and What Is Private in Water Provision: Insights from Progressive Era Cities in the US Northeast
Gwynneth C. Malin
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Please check back later for the full article.
During the colonial period and into the mid-19th century, residents of US Northeast cities drew water for domestic uses from local ponds, rivers, and ground water sources. In these early urban settlements, procuring water was a daily activity and one linked to economic class. Water provision was often a blend of public and private efforts—if residents wanted a well or a sewer built in their neighborhood, they had to help pay for it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, city officials in the US Northeast made the gradual transition from relying on private water companies to implementing the public management of water supply. As quickening urbanization and growing immigrant populations rendered local and privately managed water sources undersupplied, elected officials began to search for new sources of water.
Each city’s history is unique, but common themes include an increase in water pollution, the need to tap new water supplies further from city centers, disease prevention, fire extinction, and financial corruption, within both private water companies and municipal efforts to supply water. While most cities of the US Northeast transitioned to municipal operation of water supply during the 19th century, this shift was not without its challenges and complexity. Funding shortages often prevented change, but crises, such as fire, drought, and infectious disease outbreaks forced the hands of municipal officials. Philadelphia was first to transition to public water management in 1801, followed by New York in 1842, and Boston in 1848. In the late 19th century, New York experienced municipal delay, countered later by Progressive-era political forces that ultimately assured permanent public water management. The story of the emerging publicity of water management during this historical period sheds light on a larger narrative about the changing role of the state during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. It was during the 19th and early 20th centuries that the public management of water triumphed over private in the cities of the US Northeast.