Rain (and other precipitation) is the origin of all water. But after rainwater falls, geological and meteorological factors influence the next step in the journey. When winter snowfall in the Alps melts in springtime, it flows into rivers and the water table. Springs at the base of the mountain then bubble forth with this relatively young water. But in other parts of the world, the ground may quickly absorb falling rainwater, and the water may not reach the surface again for another ten thousand years. Much of what we drink today is rainwater that fell hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Water that circulates in a deep spring, well, or artesian well is generally more protected from human and animal waste than surface water or water from a shallow aquifer. But deep-circulating water often has a higher mineral content because it interacts with rocks for longer periods. Still, shallow-circulating water or even surface water may be of fine quality - environmental conditions make all the difference. From pristine and protected surroundings, shallow water and even rainwater are clean, safe, and delightful to drink. Since the ultimate source of water is always rain, let’s look a little more closely at the places where the water emerges or is extracted from the ground.