That’s why the United Nations designates every March 22 as World Water Day, celebrating the resource and raising awareness of water access issues. World Water Day supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The World Water Day theme for 2022 is: Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible. Groundwater is the water found underground in rock, sand and gravel formations. It may not be visible to the naked eye, but its impact is immeasurable. Almost all the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater; it feeds rivers, lakes and wetlands, and even finds its way into oceans. 

Simply put, life would not be possible without groundwater. It makes up a large portion of the water used for drinking, sanitation, agriculture and industry. Some arid parts of the world are entirely dependent on groundwater. It is also critical to the health of wetland and river ecosystems.

Today, groundwater is being overused and depleted in many areas of the world. Groundwater extraction is increasing while rain and snow volumes that replenish it are decreasing. In the western United States, for example, snowmelt volumes in mountain ranges have declined sharply over the past 60 years.

Meanwhile, industry demands for water continue to grow. The technology industry in particular has a high need for water, using hundreds of thousands of liters per day to cool data servers and manufacture microchips.

Pollution also takes a major toll, finding its way into groundwater and rendering it unfit for human consumption. The U.S. government recently took notice of firefighting compounds that were making their way into the groundwater near military bases. These compounds don’t break down over time, and pose an increased risk of cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease and pregnancy-related issues.

PCL has increased its focus on conscientious groundwater usage, both during construction and after we hand projects over to our clients.

Our LEED experts help our clients incorporate sustainable water management systems into their projects. An example of this is the rainwater harvesting system installed at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Rainwater is collected on the building’s roof and naturally filtered through plants and soil before returning to oceans and rivers. Wastewater is also treated on-site and reused in toilet flushing and in rooftop irrigation systems.

PCL has extensively used the Job Site Insights® smart construction platform on several projects to cut down on our own water usage. JSI® monitors water flow and valve status to improve water efficiency, and it measures environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity in real time to reduce temporary heating costs and ensure proper material conditions.

PCL’s civil infrastructure division is pulling its weight by helping clients upgrade water treatment plants. In Tucson, Arizona, we upgraded a treatment facility to employ an advanced oxidation process that removes 1.4 dioxane, a synthetic industrial chemical found in groundwater across the US. Once the advanced oxidation process is complete, the effluent is redirected away from groundwater sources and discharged into a dry river channel to reinvigorate the surrounding desert habitat.

At the Luke 303 WRF project in Glendale, Arizona, PCL is part of the team expanding a water reclamation facility’s capacity from 180,000 gallons to 1.75 million gallons per day. In the future, the expanded facility will recharge up to eight million gallons of treated effluent into the ground daily.

PCL is also working with the City of San Diego on a phased, multi-year program that will reduce the city’s reliance on imported water. The Pure Water San Diego program aims to clean recycled water and produce 30 million gallons of high-quality purified drinking water per day during phase 1. The overall goal is to provide more than 40% of the city’s water needs through this program by the end of 2035. PCL will look to expand upon this work and bring this experience to future projects as more municipalities launch similar initiatives.

With the experience and knowledge our experts bring to the table, PCL is poised to support our clients and our communities in the ongoing effort to conserve the groundwater we have and mitigate the risks that climate change and pollution pose to this precious resource.

Water Conservation Tips

  • In the bathroom: Don’t let the taps run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Install toilet dams, faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads.
  • In the backyard: Collect rainwater to irrigate plants; use a screened container to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water. Also, maximize natural vegetation (e.g. trees, shrubs, ground cover) that requires less water and minimize grassy areas.
  • Around the whole house: Avoid using harmful chemicals on your lawn and harmful cleaning products throughout your house. These chemicals can easily contaminate groundwater when rinsed off or washed away.