Enjoy Barrington

ISWS-HYDROLOGIC CYCLE with permission to use 4-1-2015
Over the next few months we will be focusing on Barrington’s water supply in order to gain a better understanding of the water we have in our community and where it comes from. Water expert and former BACOG Executive Director Janet Agnoletti has been kind enough to write a series of articles for us on this topic.

Scroll down for earlier articles.

ARTICLE 2: Is Barrington's Water Supply "Good?"

 

Where does natural water quality come from?  In the Barrington area, it is a result of the last melting glaciers that left behind soils and mineral deposits that comprise the shallow aquifer system – the source of 98% of the area’s water, including Barrington’s. 

 

What does it mean to have “good water quality?”

 

Most people would say that good water quality is combination of water that is completely safe to drink and pleasing to taste, smell and feel. We agree!

 

All municipal water systems must comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to protect the public health. That’s because at high levels certain contaminants in drinking water may cause cancer or other serious health effects. A 2021 Barrington Area Council of Governments (BACOG) report on water quality, however, found there are NO health-related contaminants of concern in the Barrington area. 

 

Aesthetic contaminants present in the area include iron, hardness, and chloride. The 2021 BACOG report found high levels of naturally occurring iron and hardness, which may impact taste, color, or staining, but the report emphasized they have no impact on human health.

 

Barrington Tests and Treats Our Water

 

When we turn on the faucet, we expect good, clean water.  The Village monitors the water supply every day to make sure it complies with the SDWA and is safe to drink. 

 

Barrington’s groundwater is pumped from four wells into tanks, and from there it is sampled, treated, and improved to make it perfectly drinkable. It is disinfected, and a small amount of fluoride is added for tooth health.  The water is sent through another process that removes 80-85% of the natural iron from the finished water. Home water softening can eliminate more iron and hardness.

 

What’s at Risk, and What You Can Do

 

While located in the shallow aquifer system, Barrington’s wells are relatively deep – at 305, 210, 153 and 148 feet below ground. While it is possible for surface contaminants to travel down to groundwater, there is currently no evidence that this is occurring in the Barrington area – except for chloride.

 

Including chloride, there are three types of surface-level contaminants that could possibly enter our groundwater which are entirely human-introduced and preventable:

 

Salting & Chloride. Over the past 50 <?> years, chloride levels increased substantially into water runoff everywhere that development occurred, largely due to heavy use of salt on roads for snow/ice removal. Chloride levels increased significantly in rivers and lakes, but also somewhat in groundwater. Good news: The BACOG 2021 report showed that 93 percent of groundwater chloride levels were not only below, but well below, the federal standard. The Village and other BACOG communities now use less salt and safer products, which is making a difference. Still, residents and businesses are encouraged to use the minimum amount of salt possible on pavements at home and work.  

 

Pharmaceuticals. We used to hear “flush unused medications down the toilet,” but no longer!  More pharmaceuticals are getting into surface water (lakes, rivers), harming fish and aquatic systems. But it is possible for this emerging contaminant to also enter groundwater, and so residents are encouraged to take unused medications to the Village drop-off kiosk to keep drugs out of drinking water.  

 

Fertilizers & Pesticides. The phosphorus, nitrogen and chemicals in products used for lawns and agriculture increasingly are finding their way into surface and groundwater. Elevated contaminant levels have not been found in Barrington area groundwater, but residents can help prevent a future problem by carefully following fertilizer and pesticide application instructions and limiting amounts used on home landscapes and gardens.

 

The Village actively works to maintain high-quality drinking water, through testing and treatment and preventing pollution. The benefits of our good groundwater make it a bargain, especially when compared to other water sources with the same contamination issues but a much higher price tag. Let’s work together to keep it that way. 

Iron Removal the Village Water Treatment Plant

 

Iron Removal 2


Chloride





ARTICLE 1: Barrington's Water Supply: Is It Finite or Infinite?
There are an estimated 7,840 water wells in the greater Barrington region, and more than 98% of them are pumping from the shallow aquifer system. In the Village of Barrington, our water is supplied from four of these wells, which are large municipal wells.
 
Given the current news about climate change, drought, and water supplies across the country, we might wonder, can Barrington’s water supply ever be depleted?
Here’s the good news: None of Earth’s water is permanently lost or gained – it just keeps moving through the water cycle (hydrologic cycle), which is the natural, continuous movement of water on, above, and below land surface of the Earth (see graphic). Our water supply is continuously replenished from rainfall and precipitation, but water levels do go up and down depending on climate and usage factors. 
 
So while our source of water cannot technically be fully depleted, if we squander our water through over-consumption and waste, it can take decades or centuries for water levels to return to today’s levels, which is the amount we currently need to meet our demand. 
 
How Does the Water Cycle Work?
The sun drives the water cycle, heating ocean and lake water and causing it to evaporate into vapor in the atmosphere. Plants and trees release water as vapor to the air in the process of evapotranspiration.
 
When water vapor rises, it condenses into clouds and falls back to Earth as precipitation in the form of rain or snow. The sun also melts snow – and increasingly polar ice and glaciers – and that water runs off into streams and rivers that eventually head to the oceans. Precipitation also travels through soils down to the aquifers.
 
Water flows through soil materials underground, and when it is close to land surface, it may discharge to streams and natural areas that are fed by groundwater, such as wetlands and fens. Through the water cycle, groundwater is recharged (replenished) by rain and snow melt.  
For the 7,840 shallow aquifer wells in the greater Barrington region – whether water comes from a municipal or community well or a private domestic well – all the water is coming from the same source. 
 
What is an Aquifer?
Aquifers are saturated rock and/or glacial soils under the ground that hold and can transmit water. There are two main types of aquifers: shallow and deep, and they are a key part of the water cycle. 
 
While deep aquifers are discrete units of rock, typically sandstone or limestone, the shallow aquifer system is comprised of sand, gravel and clay materials left by the last melting glaciers and the limestone bedrock they rest upon. Barrington draws its water supply from the shallow aquifers.
 
The shallow aquifer system extends from land surface to the shallow bedrock, about 200-350 feet below ground. Groundwater continuously flows vertically and horizontally, and the shallow aquifer system is considered a single interconnected water source. Precipitation recharges the aquifers through the water cycle. Shallow aquifers, like surface waters (oceans, lakes, streams) can be contaminated by water carried from land surfaces.
 
In Barrington, our shallow aquifer system is recharged locally, within a few miles of the aquifer. While it can be susceptible to drought and depletion, fortunately, over the past five years (2014–19) studies have shown that there has been a five-foot increase in our groundwater levels.  
 
Our region is extremely fortunate to have an excellent, readily accessible source of drinking water. It is true that all the water on Earth already exists, and the groundwater we enjoy deserves our protection. As such, we must not squander it through overuse. If we pollute it, we may permanently impair the drinking water quality. It is in our own best interest to safeguard the good water we have.  

The Hydrologic Cycle

ISWS-HYDROLOGIC CYCLE with permission to use 4-1-2015



Aquifers Cross-Section
Aquifers Cross-Sec Meyer 2012

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