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Protect Our Aquifer

On Sunday, December 8, 2019, Acoustic Sunday Live will be hosting a benefit concert at First Congo Church to support Protect Our Aquifer

“The mission of Protect Our Aquifer is guardianship of our most precious resource—water. In Shelby County, this means preserving and protecting the Memphis Sand Aquifer for the benefit of present and future generations.”

If you’re like many Memphians, you’ve probably seen the blue “Protect Our Aquifer” signs in your neighborhood and around town. You’ve also possibly wondered “What is that about?” or “Why should we protect the aquifer?” or maybe even “What’s an aquifer?” If you’d like the answer to any of these questions, keep reading. 

Let’s start with the basics – what is an aquifer? An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock or substance, such as sand, silt, gravel, etc. Aquifers can be found at various depths all over the world and provide water to many cities via wells. Memphis sits atop one of these many aquifers. The aquifer beneath our feet consists of many layers, but the three most important ones are these:

  • Shallow aquifer
  • First clay layer
  • Deeper sand aquifer, also referred to as the Memphis Sand Aquifer or Memphis Sand (hence the aptly named and adorned Memphis Sands brew at Wiseacre). 
Image Source: The Sierra Club

That all might be boring science stuff to some of us, so why should we care about it? Well, let me tell ya. The water that we extract from the underground aquifer is referred to as “groundwater,” (makes sense) and the groundwater in the Memphis Sand is easily 2,000 years old. However, over the past 20 years, natural gaps and breaches have been discovered in the Memphis Aquifer. These breaches allow for surface water (water runoff) to make its way into the groundwater, which ultimately means that surface-level pollutants are making their way in as well. Unfortunately, modern pollution isn’t the only threat to the groundwater in the aquifer. Because water moves so slowly to and through the aquifer, historic pollution like the arsenic contamination from the coal ash ponds built by the TVA in the 1950s (the 1950s, a time before legitimate EPA regulations were even thought of), and pre-1970s industrial activity pose a serious threat to the aquifer. This information is made all the more unsettling when you add in the fact that Memphis gets nearly all, like 99.99% (this is not an actual measurement, but it’s pretty dang close – bottled water is the only other source of drinking water in Memphis) of its water from the Memphis Aquifer. 

Protect Our Aquifer is a Memphis-based organization with a clear mission: “We (POA) support the protection, conservation, and management of the Memphis Sand Aquifer.” Protect Our Aquifer lists its objectives:

  1. Raise public awareness of the Memphis Sand Aquifer and its value to the community 
  2. Act as a public watchdog for both new and existing contamination threats to the Memphis Sand Aquifer
  3. Continue to work with government and elected officials to achieve active management and monitoring of the Memphis Sand Aquifer in Shelby County.

Protect Our Aquifer is only a few years old, but already they have helped secure $5 million for an aquifer study conducted by CAESAR (Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research at the University of Memphis), joined with the Sierra Club and led the community and legal effort to stop the TVA from using their aquifer wells to cool their new power plant (you can read more about the TVA battle here), and are currently actively engaged in opposing multiple applications to site construction landfills within the Wolf River Flood Plain that will endanger groundwater in Shelby County. 

According to Ward Archer, president of Protect Our Aquifer and member of the CAESAR Advisory Board, Memphis is the largest city in the United States that gets its drinking water from groundwater yet we have “no [government agencies] that monitor or police the aquifer.”

Protect Our Aquifer is a group of citizen-soldiers, fighting the war on pollution, conserving what is arguably Memphis’ most valuable natural resource: clean drinking water. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to help POA fight the good fight, check out their website for information on volunteering and donating, and don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter.

To raise awareness for the Memphis Sand Aquifer, Acoustic Sunday Live! is hosting a benefit concert with Grammy-nominated and local artists on December 8, 2019, from 7p-10p at First Congressional (Congo) Church on Cooper St. Proceeds from the concert will go to Protect Our Aquifer.
For ticket information, visit
Call 901-237-2972 for questions.


MARIA MULDAUR is a Grammy-nominated American folk and blues singer who was part of the American folk music revival in the early 1960s. She recorded the 1973 hit song “Midnight at the Oasis” and continues to record albums in the folk traditions.

RUTHIE FOSTER has been nominated three times for the Best Blues Album Grammy, in addition to her seven Blues Music Awards, three Austin Music Awards, the Grand Prix du Disque award from the Académie Charles-Cros in France, a Living Blues Critics’ Award for Female Blues Artist of the Year, and the title of an “inspiring American Artist” as a United States Artists 2018 Fellow.

DOM FLEMONS (Carolina Chocolate Drops) is an American old-time music, Piedmont blues, and neotraditional country multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. Proficient on banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, percussion, quills, and rhythm bones, he is known as “The American Songster” with repertoire spanning a century of American folklore, ballads, and tunes.

GUY DAVIS is a banjo player, blues guitarist and actor. He’s a BMA nominee and “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” winner, and he says his music is inspired by the Southern speech of his grandmother. Though raised in New York, he grew up hearing accounts of life in the rural South, and they made their way into his own stories and songs.

DOUG MACLEOD is Memphis’ own 4-time BMA winning guitar master and international touring artist who writes and sings original songs that are based on his own life and experiences. He learned from the old masters and carries forward a valuable tradition.  The most important lesson he learned came from Ernest Banks a one-eyed country bluesman, “Never play a note you don’t believe.”

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