Many everyday activities around our homes and in our communities have the potential to contaminate groundwater. You have direct control over many potential contaminating activities on your property, such as how you manage your well or dispose of household hazardous waste.

You might think you can do nothing to protect groundwater from contamination from landfills, gas stations, construction, cattle feedlots, manufacturing, and many other activities, but you can. In many cases, these activities require permits. As an interested citizen, you can voice your concerns at permit renewal hearings.

There also are many opportunities to increase public awareness of risks and to recognize commercial activities and individuals that are taking positive steps to protect groundwater. You and your community can make a difference by taking action to promote safe groundwater resources for the future.

How to Get Started

  • Look over the protecting groundwater pages listed below and identify the topics that apply to your home, community, or other area of interest.
  • Jot down some ideas for action and if possible do one of them right away. Once you start taking action, you will make a difference!
  • Learn more about the topic. Check out the recommended websites or make some phone calls.
  • Get others involved and work together on the community action steps.

Protecting Groundwater Topics


Rural homesteads and businesses, farms, some urban areas.

Septic Systems

Rural homesteads, semi-rural residential areas, businesses.

Home, garden, and automotive chemicals

Urban areas and rural homesteads.


Agriculture, rural and urban homes, public areas.

Commerical Use of Pesticides

Farming, nursery operations, orchards, Christmas tree farms, timberlands, lawn services, insect control, gold courses, parks, roadsides, school yards, sports fields.

Hazardous Materials Used in Business and Industry

Manufacturing, dray cleaners, vehicle repair, junkyards, construction, logging, scientific research, water treatment plants, and many more.

Storage Tanks- Underground and Aboveground

Gas stations, homes with heating oil, industrial and agricultural chemical suppliers, farms and ranches, school bus yards, fleet maintenance operations, other businesses.

Transportation and Handling of Fuels and Chemicals in Bulk

Everyone with storage tanks, delivery services, trucking companies, railroads, pipelines.

Storage Lagoons

Manure management and industrial waste.

Animal Lots

Feedlots, dairies, stables, kennels, and small farms.

Landfills and Dumps

Regional lined landfills to roadside dumping areas.

Natural Contamination Sources

Contaminated streams or lakes interacting with groundwater, natural substances.

Miscellaneous Urban Activities

Storm-water runoff, construction, abandoned industrial sites, pre-1940 cemeteries

This section, including most illustrations, was adapted with permission from "Groundwater Contamination" by Lyle Raymond, Jr. (© Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, November 1988).