Water Quality is Now Our Responsibility – What part will you play?
The quality of our water has always been our responsibility but even more so now, at least in the U.S. Many protections that have prevented big and small businesses from polluting our waterways are at risk, and the EPA is being stripped of resources. While we can hope that businesses will still do the right thing, the burden now falls heavily on us to do everything we can to confront this issue.
Conserving Increases Quality
While the connection might not be obvious, water conservation also impacts water quality. The less water used, the less mixed with contaminated water that has to be treated before sending it downstream. This topic is worthy of its own article for another day, but the basics are things like running the washing machine and dishwasher only when full, speeding up showers, avoiding flushing the toilet unnecessarily, and using rain barrels to water your garden.
Down the Drain
Whatever you put down the drain, will ultimately impact water quality.
- Keep a grease jar to collect cooking grease and fat (and recycle or dispose of as solid waste).
- Never put anything toxic down the sink like paint and hazardous chemicals. Many of these products have special disposal requirements, so do your research to ensure that you dispose of them properly.
- Soaps and detergents should be phosphate-free. Check out my laundry detergent solution here.
- Don’t use products (e.g., toothpaste or face wash) that contains microbeads. Those tiny plastic pieces are next to impossible to filter out of water.
- Don’t flush things like medication, plastic applicators, or baby wipes down the toilet. Only toilet paper is engineered to decompose quickly.
- Use your garbage disposal sparingly. Compost as much kitchen waste as you can.
Reduce Use of Plastic
Plastic is a major contributor to water pollution. Not only its physical presence, but also because it breaks down and leaches chemicals in the water. Avoid plastic wherever possible, and, when you can’t, make sure to reuse or recycle. If you have access to clean drinking water, don’t use plastic water bottles; don’t use products with microbeads (see above); and chose glass and metal packaging over plastic whenever possible.
The Power of Plants
Plants play a key role in preventing some harmful substances from reaching our water supply. Buffer zones of plants are particularly useful around hard surfaces (e.g., pavement) and any water source (e.g., small streams and creeks). While plants themselves are beneficial, the gardener in you should minimize the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides as they, too, pollute our water.
Car Maintenance and Usage
While we tend to associate cars more with air pollution than water pollution, a well-maintained vehicle that is washed at a commercial car wash can improve the quality of storm run off. This helps to prevent oil and other fluid leaks and ensures that any substances on your car are properly disposed.
Pick Up Trash
Join local efforts to pick up trash whether with an Adopt-a-Highway program, a local water organization, or an earth day celebration. You can also incorporate litter duty in to your every day life. Take a trash bag with you when you go on a neighborhood walk, go hiking, or visit a park or playground. (I always keep a few handy in my car.) As you appreciate your surroundings, take a few minutes to leave it better than how you found it.
Support Sustainable Businesses
Use your power as a consumer to research the environmental practices and impacts of the businesses that you regularly support. Companies that adopt sustainable practices should be rewarded whenever possible, even if it does cost a little bit more. This includes everything from food and household goods to the big-ticket items. Make your money work.
It would be nice to think that even if environmental protections are deregulated at the federal level, that the state and local governments would jump in. That isn’t likely to happen unless you step in and take action. Actively support any water quality legislation and regulation at all levels of government; join an organization or two that promotes water quality; and, take advantage of any opportunities to enlighten others on the cause.
While many people around the globe have little to no access to clean water, including people right here in the United States, those of us that do have a heightened responsibility to protect it. Do what you can to make a splash!