Area wells are not bound by water restrictions designed to conserve surface water. But well users need to keep in mind that the supply of groundwater is not limitless and that wasting water, whatever its source, during a drought is rash.
Many residents within the drought-stricken Upstate view wells as a loophole in the water-use restrictions imposed on those who rely on the public water system. Well drilling companies have been busy digging wells for residents who want to be able to water lawns and shrubs and wash their cars with impunity.
According to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, residents in York County have applied for 29 new irrigation wells this year. Statewide, permits for 5,516 wells have been issued so far this year, and almost half of those are for irrigation.
Well owners may have a leg up on those who get their water from municipal systems, but overuse of wells eventually will affect the level of the aquifer. Already, many well owners are having to go deeper in existing wells or dig new ones to find water.
Without rain soon, all sources of water will become scarcer, which could prompt new restrictions on use. If the drought reaches Stage 5, any use of municipal water outside of homes or businesses could be severely restricted.
Everyone within the area affected by one of the worst droughts in the region's history needs to avoid wasting water whether it's lake water or well water. And, with luck and a wet winter, lawns will turn green and cars will shine again next spring.