Opinion: Why forests and sand matter

Apr 13, 2024

To the editor:

Most of Wareham gets its water from a single place, the Plymouth-Carver sole-source aquifer, underneath the Town. Whether it is a private well or a town public well, almost all of them draw water out of this aquifer, like giant straws sucking out of the same cup. And this cup is entirely replenished by rainwater.

Sitting on top of our giant “cup” of water is a system of forests and sand which have protected the water in Wareham for thousands of years, alongside the Wampanoag People who steward this region and call it home.

The forests and sand which cover the aquifer act like natural filters. Tree roots remove pollutants and impurities from rainwater and can absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil. The organic matter beneath the forest floor can attenuate small amounts of organic contamination. Our forests are a huge part of our water quality.

Sand acts as a physical filter for our aquifer. It removes suspended particles from the recharge water. Bacteria also absorbs to sand grains, forming bacterial mats. Sand forms a tortuous path for water to travel through before it reaches the aquifer, cleaning it as it goes.

Imagine a water filter, with its activated carbon layer and its sand filter. Now remove both those layers from the filter and run water through it. The water would come out pretty dirty, right? That is what we are doing to our water when we remove the trees and the sand. Wareham has lost hundreds acres to deforestation and sand mining in recent years. They are also a huge part of our quality of life.

Please urge our Town officials to make land conservation a top priority. If Wareham is going to thrive in the future, it must protect its water by conserving every available forest and open space.

Thank you, 

Katherine Harrelson

Community Land and Water Coalition