The answer is from the ground. The Windber Area Authority (WAA) has a series of wells that we pump water out of. The wells produce about 1.2 million gallons per day to serve about 10,000 people.
The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974 and has been amended several times since. The most recent amendment was in 1986. This amendment requires the development of more drinking water standards and more technical requirements. In particular, surface water has to be filtered (a filter plant) or taken from the ground via wells which require no filtering - the ground acts as a filter. The WAA was fortunate to find good groundwater in the mountain along Clear Shade Creek so the decision was made to drill wells. The WAA has 7 production wells.
The wells produce high-quality and large-capacity groundwater from an aquifer called the Mauch Chunk/Burgoon aquifer. The aquifer is about 350 feet beneath the surface and a 10-inch hole is drilled into it. Large well pumps are used to pump the water to the surface. Two of the wells are artesian which means water flows to the surface without the aid of a pump.
This aquifer is made up of sandstone in different layers and is very hard. Water travels very slowly through this aquifer and is very old water. A drop of water hitting the surface of the ground takes about 40 years to reach the wells. Water enters the aquifer in what is called the recharge area. This can be very large. Our recharge area is thousands of acres in size. By the way, only one fourth of the water that falls enters the ground, the rest runs off or evaporates.As the water travels through the rock it picks up minerals, such as iron, and calcium. Sometimes this makes the water “hard” which means it takes more soap to clean with. These minerals in the water give the water a distinctive taste and are generally harmless.
The water is collected in a large water tank and must be disinfected before it can be consumed. The WAA water treatment plant uses chlorine gas to disinfect the water. Any disease producing organisms are killed by the chlorine and the chlorine remains in the water to ward off any organisms that can be picked up along the way, such as in the pipes. The water is then transported to the consumer via pipes. The pipes range in size from as large as 20 inches to as small as 3/4 inch. Most of the lines are made of cast iron and are buried in the ground to prevent freezing in the winter.
The WAA has approximately 80 miles of pipeline. Some of the water is stored in water tanks near town for reserve and fire fighting.
Everyone can do their part in protecting our water. The first thing is to conserve water. Water in the ground may be free, but getting it to the people’s homes and making sure it is safe costs money - both the WAA’s money and the consumer’s money. Also, water is not limitless. There is only a certain amount of water that can be taken from the ground. There are times when the weather is dry and a drought may occur. This could cause us to put restrictions on the use of the water or even ration it. Protecting the aquifers from damage due to coal mining and gas exploration.
Finally, do your part to keep the ground water or any water from being contaminated. Don’t pollute the water by dumping chemicals, paint, gasoline or motor oil in the water or on the ground. These will eventually find their way to the water and aquifer. One gallon of gasoline can contaminate approximately 750,000 gallons of water.