Earth Day is a time for us to bring about awareness of our planet’s most precious resources—including water. This Thursday, April 22, we want to remind you of ways we can help each other protect our water sources. Without good, clean water, we could not survive and not a single thing we see around us would be possible.
We must remember that the water we use in our homes comes from your local lake, river or aquifer, and society’s day-to-day actions affect the quality of this water. The ecosystems we live in are delicate and what goes into the drain or gutter can poison flora and fauna in your neighborhood and alter the quality of the water you see. Also, it is the responsibility of your water and wastewater utility company to treat water to make it safe for consumption and to be safely return it back to the environment. The quality of the wastewater leaving our systems and source water coming into our systems has an impact on the costs to treat it due to needing more extensive infrastructure—this can result in higher costs to you. Following are tips to help maintain water quality and protect our local water sources.
Use and dispose of harmful household chemicals properly. Do not pour hazardous waste down the drain, on the ground, or into storm sewers. Household products that are hazardous and can contaminate our drinking water may include:
- motor vehicle fluids such as antifreeze, battery acid, brake fluids, motor oil, and gasoline;
- pesticides and fertilizer;
- leftover paints or paint cans;
- flea collars;
- household cleaners;
- prescription medication
Do not flush chemicals down the toilet or pour down drains, including storm drains.
Properly dispose of unwanted medicine by putting medication in a bag or container with used coffee grounds. You can also ask your pharmacist if they have an established program for proper disposal of syringes and expired medications.
If you have a septic system, make sure it is properly maintained. The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years and pumped every three to five years by a service professional. Leaking septic systems release bacteria, viruses, and chemicals to local aquifers and waterways.
Pick up after your pets. Pet waste contains bacteria that is harmful to humans such as E.Coli and fecal coliform. When you do not clean up after your pet, waste is left on sidewalks and lawns and when it rains and can be carried by storm water into nearby rivers, lakes and streams. Pet waste can run down the storm drains, spreading bacteria and viruses.
Fix leaks that drip from your car and put down a liner in your driveway to collect oil and other materials. These leaks and drips contribute to stormwater pollution. The EPA suggests that one million gallons of drinking water can be contaminated from the waste oil from a single oil change.
Consider landscaping that requires minimal water and minimizes run off. Much residential water use accounts for outdoor landscaping. Take a close look at your outdoor watering activities. Most landscapes do not need to be watered as often in the fall and winter as they do during the summer.
Use mulch in your landscaping. Mulch retains moisture within plants and saves water, allowing you to water plants less often and get more out of each watering. Consider not paving your property. The more pavement there is, the more rain water will simply run off the storm drains, picking up pollutants on the way and causing flooding. Allowing water to soak into the ground can prevent flooding, recharge groundwater supplies and dilute contaminants.
Be mindful in which soaps, detergents and cleaners you use. Products you use to clean your showers or clean your toilets can be extremely harmful and uses harsher chemical than what is needed to get the job done. A simple mix of Dawn dish soap and vinegar is natural and does the job just as well. Also, be mindful the soap you use to wash with laundry.