Environmental Health Division
DRINKING WATER PROGRAM
Groundwater is the only source of drinking water in Kalamazoo County. Your water may come from an onsite water well or a public water supply. In Kalamazoo County either source is groundwater.
If your residence is connected to a public water supply (you or your landlord pays a water bill), the water is tested on a regular basis by the supplier. An annual Water Quality Report is required by a 1996 amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act (pdf) (Public Act 399 of 1976, as amended). You may receive a report in the mail every year. If you missed the report, contact your community supplier for information about your water supply. Many communities in Kalamazoo County and surrounding areas participate in Wellhead Protection programs and regional efforts to protect groundwater as a source of drinking water. Learn more about these Safe Drinking Water Partners.
Onsite Water Supply Systems
The Environmental Health Division enforces State of Michigan regulations regarding the construction and use of drinking water supplies. The current Michigan Water Well Construction and Pump Installation Code (Part 127 of Public Act 368 of 1978, as amended) and administrative rules became effective on April 21, 1994. Any well drilled since this date is required to meet the minimum regulations defined by this code.
Additionally, the Kalamazoo County Sanitary Code addresses well construction in Article III. Specifically, a permit is required before drilling new or replacement water wells. A permit may be denied if the location of the well is in a known groundwater contamination area.
After completing a water well, well drillers are required to submit Water Well and Pump Records to the Environmental Health Division. The records provide information such as the well depth, casing diameter, and depth of static water. The well records can be viewed on-line at Wellogic, a site maintained by Michigan State University on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). A copy of the record for your address may also be available at our office.
An inspection of a newly drilled water well is required by this office to assure code compliance. Water samples will also be collected and analyzed to assure safe drinking water. If you would like to sample your own water supply, please contact this office at (269) 373-5337 for more information.
What is Groundwater?
Although some communities in Michigan get their drinking water from surface water, residents and businesses in Kalamazoo County rely solely upon groundwater for their water supply. Drinking water is obtained from groundwater wells that are drilled down into aquifers. Aquifers are simply water bearing geologic formations. In our county, groundwater exists in the spaces within sand and gravel rather than in underground rivers. In most areas, we can get abundant water from the sands and gravels (drift) that the glaciers left thousands of years ago. This glacial drift overlies bedrock. The Coldwater Shale, which is not considered a potable aquifer due to poor water quality and low yield, underlies most of the glacial drift in the county. Only in the very northeast corner of the county is the underlying bedrock (Marshall Sandstone) used for a source of water.
Groundwater flows from areas of recharge, where precipitation and melt water seep into the ground, to discharge areas, like streams, lakes, and rivers. Almost all of the surface water bodies in Kalamazoo County are connected to groundwater. Therefore, it is important to protect both surface water and groundwater.
The water table is the top of the uppermost aquifer. Contamination from the surface, such as spilled oil or improperly constructed onsite sewage disposal systems, can reach the water table by seeping down into the ground with rain or snowmelt. Groundwater that is deeper than the water table is less vulnerable to contamination from our activities at the ground surface. Clay layers can provide a barrier to further protect groundwater from surface contamination. Expansive clay layers are called confining beds, aquicludes, or aquitards. Aquifers underlying confining beds are referred to as confined aquifers, and if the confined aquifer is under pressure, it is called an Artesian aquifer.
Here are some ways that you can protect groundwater:
USGS Groundwater Levels
American Water Works Association
City of Kalamazoo Wellhead Protection Team
The Groundwater Foundation
The Ground Water Protection Council
Michigan DEQ Drinking Water
Michigan DEQ Wellhead Protection Program
National Sanitation Foundation
U.S. EPA, Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water
U.S. EPA, Safe Drinking Water Information System
U.S. EPA, Surf Your Watershed
The Water Quality Association