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Living with water

Drawing on Fuji's Groundwater

Environmental innovation in Shizuoka Prefecture


Spreading out from the foot of Mount Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture has long been known as a land blessed with a rich source of groundwater. Mount Fuji is a three-layer volcanic mountain with a top layer permeable to water and a middle layer that isn't, meaning rain and melted snow flow within the top layer to emerge as groundwater at the mountain's base below. A natural groundwater collection system, the mountain is sometimes called the 'Dam of the Heavens.'

In addition to providing water for local residents, Mount Fuji's springs are tapped for various purposes including industrial and agricultural use. To this day, many natural wells can be found at nearby factories, farms and residences. When walking through towns in the vicinity of Mount Fuji, one can hear the ubiquitous murmuring springs that flow alongside the roads. Currently, Shizuoka Prefecture is advancing its own unique environmental technology to use Mount Fuji's groundwater.

Since 2013, for the purposes of advancing its energy conservation measures and encouraging local energy production for local consumption, Shizuoka has been promoting a geothermal heat exchange system that exploits the natural energy provided by the stable temperatures of Mount Fuji's abundant groundwater supply. This heat exchange system forms a heating and cooling system that efficiently shifts from high to low temperatures.

This undertaking makes use of the existing wells around Mount Fuji, inserting pipes that circulate an antifreeze solution to generate thermal energy – used for air conditioning – from heat exchange with groundwater. By taking advantage of the groundwater's minimal temperature change throughout the seasons, the system is capable of highly efficient heat exchange and significantly reduces electric power consumption compared to other systems of this type. Moreover, the use of existing wells near Mount Fuji means no new wells need to be dug, thus lowering costs. Groundwater levels in areas surrounding these wells remain unaffected since nothing but heat is extracted from the underground resource.

Shizuoka Prefecture initially set up system models in two locations, the sewage processing management office of a private company in Fuji City and a souvenir store in Fujinomiya City. The next phase will involve the mapping of appropriate site locations for the purpose of promoting this groundwater heat exchange system to factories and other facilities in the vicinity of Mount Fuji, with an eye to general family use in the future.

According to Yasuhide Muranaka of the Shizuoka Institute of Environment and Hygiene, "This heat exchange system utilizing Mount Fuji's groundwater is particularly suited to summertime. The water temperature in Shizuoka City, which is in the same prefecture but further away from Mount Fuji, fluctuates between 15 to 20 degrees and will occasionally exceed 20 degrees. On the other hand, the local water temperature of the region near the foot of Mount Fuji remains stable at approximately 15 degrees throughout the year. Furthermore, the temperature doesn't change as the groundwater is not diluted by river water. The region's greatest merit is the extreme abundance of its water." He goes on to recount his dream: "For the future, we hope to create an environment where energy is produced by existing factory wells and jointly shared by the entire community including neighboring residences, stores, hospitals and nursing homes."

The numerous wells that dot the area around Mount Fuji currently exist in a state of disuse, a sign of changing times. With the introduction of this system, there are high hopes for the advancement of regional development that will be capable of local energy production and consumption by taking full advantage of the unique local conditions.

Katsuya Kubota of Shizuoka Prefecture's Community and Environmental Affairs Department mentions that, "Although I've always recognized that Shizuoka Prefecture is blessed with water, I never considered water as being anything other than just water. But seeing this new connection between the unique properties of our groundwater and energy production, it must be utilized as much as possible. I believe that we should approach this from various perspectives for the future, taking into account environmental considerations, energy conservation and other aspects of our abundant water supply."

Uses for the abundant, high quality groundwater produced by Mount Fuji have changed with the needs of the times. But to the people who have coexisted with this mountain in a relationship that has remained unchanged throughout history, it continues to be a source of enrichment for their lives.

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