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How to Do Your Part in Keeping Our Drinking Water Clean 

Written by:
George Simms
Plumber & Contractor

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces regulations that water suppliers must follow to keep drinking water clean. However, individuals and communities can play an active role in protecting drinking water sources and preventing unnecessary contamination. 

Polluted water can lead to illness, and in severe cases, death. Although safeguards are in place, every individual must remain vigilant to reduce the risk of consuming unsafe water. Everyday habits can contribute to water contamination, even when it may not be obvious you are contributing to pollution. 

"You can follow some straightforward tips to keep your drinking water safe. "

Don’t Litter

One of the most obvious signs of water contamination is littering. If there are discarded cans, bottles, and food wrappers in streams and lakes, water treatment plants need to remove the offending items when filtering water to make it safe for human consumption. However, cleaning water is not an easy process, and adding unnecessary contaminants makes it harder for the treatment facility to do its job.

You don’t need to throw litter directly into a water source to contribute to water pollution. If you carelessly drop a wrapper or can in your neighborhood, there is a good chance it will make its way into a storm drain. These materials travel through the system until reaching streams, lakes and ultimately ending up in the sea. Make sure you are disposing of your trash thoughtfully in garbage cans and recycling bins. 

Clean Up After Your Dog

Leaving dog feces in the street is no longer socially acceptable, and it also affects water quality. When it rains or sprinklers operate in the area, dog feces wash down the road, carrying microbes and toxins. They can also collect other contaminants from the pavement as they travel. 

Eventually, the waste material enters a storm drain or stream, adding pollutants to a potential drinking water source.

Dispose of Hazardous Waste Correctly

It’s easy to pour cooking oil or household cleaners down the sink without considering the consequences. However, this can be a source of water contamination. One of the simplest ways to keep water clean is to be mindful of how you dispose of many items you routinely use around the home. 

"Never pour motor oil or unused paint down a drain because the chemicals ultimately finish up in a river or stream that could be a clean drinking water source. "

You can contact your local authority and ask about synthetic pickup or dropoff areas to dispose of your extra materials in an eco-friendly manner. 

If you have unused medicines, resist the urge to dispose of them by pouring the bottle down the sink. You can return medication to your local pharmacy, and they can destroy them in a safe way that does not harm the environment.

Reduce Chemical Usage 

Sometimes it’s necessary to use chemicals to keep your lawn in good condition. You may also use fertilizer to grow crops in your garden or allotment. If possible, try to minimize fertilizer use because many brands use harmful chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorus. 

Chemicals in your garden can mix with groundwater water that flows just beneath the surface, moving through gaps in the soil and cracked rocks. Groundwater eventually travels to streams and lakes, adding the chemicals to the water source. 

While the EPA guidelines state many chemicals are not harmful to human health in low concentrations, they can contribute to severe illness when these levels rise. Water filtration plants remove as many pollutants as possible from water sources, but you can make their job easier by not adding pollutants to rivers and streams.

Maintain Your Septic System 

Septic systems carry human waste away for safe disposal. If your septic tank or pipes have cracks or suffer from corrosion, waste material can seep into the surrounding ground. Harmful bacteria and microbes mix with groundwater, infiltrating water sources and contributing to pollution. 

You can reduce the risk of septic system damage by only flushing materials intended for disposal down a toilet. Causing blockages can increase pressure on pipework and lead to cracking in the metalwork.

Arrange an inspection of your septic system by a trained professional at least every three years. If you own a system that uses switches, pumps, or has mechanical elements, it’s good practice to have an expert inspect your system annually. By identifying any potential issues as early as possible, you can repair the problem before your waste material enters the water supply.

Compost Yard Waste 

Grass clippings and decaying organic waste are unsuitable for disposal in a storm drain. These materials can cause blockages in the system, contain hazardous chemicals, and cause waste build-up in potential water sources. 

To keep water clean, you can sweep up yard waste and place it in covered containers to prevent it from blowing out and disappearing into a storm drain. Consult with your local authority to find the nearest recycling facility that accepts organic material for environmentally-friendly disposal.

Alternatively, you could also set up a compost bin to biodegrade lawn clipping quickly and add the nutrients back into your garden.

Look After Wetlands 

The Ecological Society of America states wetlands act as a natural filter, reducing the number of chemicals and excess nutrients that enter the water system. If you live in an area with wetlands, it’s vital to learn how to keep them intact so they can contribute to keeping drinking water clean. 

Avoid introducing non-native plant species to wetlands, and keep your dog under control when in the area so they don’t destroy vegetation.

Participate in Clean Water Programs 

Many communities run clean-up drives to remove litter from the neighborhood, reducing the risk of entering water sources. If there isn’t a program in your local area, you could start one and invite your neighbors to join in. 

You could speak in public forums to advocate for better practices in keeping your drinking water supply clean. Participating in a clean water program can be a great way to bring the community together and encourage everyone to play their part in keeping your drinking water safe.

Many conservation experts are happy to attend public events to educate others on how to protect water supplies. You could even arrange an online class which local people can listen to learn more about what they can do to maintain their drinking water quality.

About the Author

George Simms is a Salt Lake City based plumber and contractor, with a focus on aiding homes and businesses (particularly farm) solve problems with hard and contaminated water. Walter is here to share his wealth of job experience and a knowledge of both modern and antique plumbing.

Last Updated on December 9, 2021