By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue
Thirteen percent of Americans, some 42 million people, use a household well for their water supply.
The largest clusters of people who use wells are not where you might expect. There are frequent reports of dry wells in the American West, but despite its ranch-and-frontier image, the region is the most urban in the country. Most people there live in cities and are connected to a water utility’s distribution system.
According to U.S. Geological Survey data, counties with the most people using household wells are found in the East: in Florida, the Great Lakes region, the Carolinas, and along the Interstate 95 corridor from Maryland to New Hampshire. There are also large pockets in California and along the western slopes of the Cascades.
Which county ranks highest? Prince George’s County, Maryland, which abuts the nation’s capital, with 277,325 people who use a well. Second is Erie County, New York, home to Buffalo, with 264,990.
The counties with the highest percentage of residents with a well looks similar. The Great Lakes states, especially Michigan, the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Virginia, and northern Florida have many counties where two-thirds or more of residents use a well. Counties in the Great Plains and northern Rockies, though sparsely populated, also have a high percentage of residents who rely on a well.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton