Since the beginning of civilization communities have always needed to find a safe clean supply of water. While surface water was often used because it was easy to obtain, it would become polluted or was sometimes unavailable. In those cases, people relied on wells. One of the earliest pronouncements addressing the need for protection of drinking water in the Americas was by Governor Gage of Virginia in 1610, he said:

"There shall be no man or woman dare to wash any unclean linen, wash clothes,...nor rinse or make clean any kettle, pot, or pan or any suchlike vessel within twenty feet of the old well or new pump. Nor shall anyone aforesaid, within less than a quarter mile of the fort, dare to do the necessities of nature, since by these unmanly, slothful, and loathsome immodesties, the whole fort may be choked and poisoned."

--Governor Gage of Virginia, Proclamation for Jamestown, Va. (1610)

Up until the 1970s, groundwater was thought to be naturally protected from contaminants because the layers of soil and rocks would act like a filter and remove and trap the contaminants before they could reach the groundwater. While the soil does indeed provide some level of protection to the water supply, people realized that their actions can have a direct effect on the environment and ultimately their health and well being. In the mid-seventies many environmental laws were passed at the federal, state and local levels throughout the United States to address this issue.