As Americans, we can sometimes take for granted the fact that we have safe drinking water. We don’t think about what’s in our drinking water until there’s a crisis situation.
August is National Water Quality Month, which means it’s the perfect time to educate ourselves on where our water comes from and how we can preserve it. Educating ourselves is the best way to ensure that our water continues to be high quality and free of contamination.
Did you know that half of the United States population lives within 50 miles of a coast? The majority of Americans get their water from one of the 54,000 local water providers across the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed federal regulations on public water suppliers to ensure that they are monitoring more than 100 contaminants. Part of their job is to take the wastewater from our households that flows into the utilities main wastewater pipeline, remove pollutants from it, and re-use it or release it back into the environment.
When it comes to water quality, it’s not only the EPA and local water suppliers job to protect our water!
We live on what’s called a watershed. A watershed is land that drains to one stream, lake, or river. All drainage affects our water quality. If you have healthy watersheds, your water is less expensive to treat, you have better quality outdoor recreation involving lakes, rivers, streams, and your property values could be higher. The health of our water is largely determined by how we treat the watersheds we live by.
Although the majority of our water is regulated and safe to drink, you should still be cautious about what could potentially be in your pipes, faucets, and local waterways contaminating your water.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), contaminated water could have higher concentrations of lead, atrazine, pathogens, chlorine, arsenic, nitrates, radioactive material, vinyl chloride, perchlorate, and pharmaceuticals.
Animal waste contains harmful organisms like e. coli, salmonella, and giardia. If you don't pick up after your pet, the storm waters could wash these pollutants into our waterways and contaminate the water. Animals waste is also high in nitrogen which at excess can deplete the oxygen in water making it harmful for fish and other underwater plants.
Washing your car at home can flush chemicals down the storm drains that flow into our lakes and streams. Professional car washes are required to drain into sewer systems so that wastewater plants can treat the water before it is re-used.
Avoid putting products like motor oil, prescription medications, antibacterial household cleaners, paints, bug/pest repellants, and detergents. We don't want products like this down the drain and into our waterways because they have toxic chemicals in them.
Join a community clean-up crew for streets, beaches, rivers, and wetlands. It's important to educate yourself and learn from others who care about our environment. Make friends and feel great about protecting our water!
Remember, water that enters our drains goes into our waterways before the treatment plants! Practicing these little changes year-round in our communities can make a big difference!