Depending on where you live in the United States, your water could be coming from any number of sources. For example, if you head to the Midwest, to Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan or Ohio, the water in your home is likely going to come from one of the Great Lakes.
Out here in Missoula, however, we’re a long way in from the coast and much too far from any major body of water, which means we have to get our water from somewhere else: namely, the Missoula Aquifer. As a result, well drilling in Missoula, MT is a necessity!
Learning about the aquifer
What is the Missoula Aquifer? In simplest terms, it’s a water table that’s located not far under the surface of the land we live on—about 40 feet down or so—that provides fresh water in place of a lake or river source. To really understand the Missoula Aquifer, however, we need to go back about 15,000 years ago, to the formation of the aquifer itself.
Missoula is in mountain country, but 15,000 years ago—during the last ice age—this area was a glacier basin. Roughly 500 cubic miles of water was present in this area and as the ice age began to wear thin, this water began to surge forth, shaping the land as we know it today. Eventually, towards the end of the ice age, a gigantic glacial dam encapsulating Lake Missoula ruptured, sending water, gravel and stone down into the Missoula Valley.
As the sediment from the ruptured dam settled, it formed an aquifer, which acts as a natural water preserve that can be tapped into in order to provide homes and businesses with clean, fresh running water. It’s estimated that the Missoula Aquifer has billions of gallons of viable water, with more accumulating after every rainfall and flood season.
Drilling into the aquifer
Billions of gallons of water right beneath our feet is an amazing concept, but in order to access it, a careful approach must be taken. Well drilling in Missoula, MT might seem like a simple concept, but in order to protect the Missoula Aquifer from contamination and ensure only fresh, clean water is pumped into our homes, the job must be approached with a significant amount of expertise.
The expanse of the aquifer
Currently, about 40,000 properties in Missoula and the surrounding area cities and towns rely on the Missoula Aquifer for water, which means numerous wells that pump water from this source each day. In fact, the water table itself stretches from Milltown to Frenchtown and as far as Lolo, making it one of the largest aquifers in the region!
So how does this aquifer refill itself continuously with so many people drawing from it, over such a wide expanse? Aside from rainfall and melting snows, the aquifer also gets help from the Clark Fork River and the Bitterroot River—because it’s so close to the surface, the water table is able to accumulate runoff from these natural water sources.
Who knew such a prolific and important natural resource was right below our feet? The next time you turn on your tap and enjoy a glass of fresh water, remember the Missoula Aquifer!