6 Simple Ways to Protect Our Water Quality

August is National Water Quality Month, which is a good time to think about something that is essential to our survival but that we too often take for granted.

Water utilities in the United States treat nearly 34 billion gallons of water every day. As a result, the U.S. has one of the world’s safest water supplies -– but that doesn’t make it immune to threats such as:

  • Contaminants from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining and farming.
  • Accidents like the Elk River chemical spill or the Dan River ash spill.
  • Aging infrastructure, which is more than a century old in some places and leaks billions of gallons every day. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our drinking water infrastructure a grade of D+ and estimates that the cost of fixing it could approach $1 trillion in the coming decades.
  • Viruses and bacteria from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife.
  • Pesticides and herbicides from agriculture or residential uses.

So, it’s important that we actively protect our water supplies -– particularly if you’re among the 15% of Americans who get their water from private sources like wells.

According to the EPA, here are some ways in which we can reduce contamination and protect our water quality:

  • Reduce paved areas: Use permeable surfaces that allow rain to soak in, not run off, like wood, brick and gravel for decks, patios and walkways.
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide application: Test your soil before applying chemicals and design your lawn and garden with hardy plants that require little or no watering, fertilizers or pesticides.
  • Reduce the amount of trash you create: Reuse containers, recycle plastics, aluminum and glass.
  • Recycle used oil: A single quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water; take used oil or antifreeze to a service station or recycling center.
  • Be careful what you put into your septic system: Harmful chemicals may end up in your drinking water.
  • Keep pollutants away from boat marinas and the waterways: Keep boat motors well-tuned to prevent fuel and lubricant leaks; select nontoxic cleaning products and use a drop cloth, and clean and maintain boats away from the water.

For more, learn about water quality on the EPA’s website while sipping some cool H2O from your favorite water bottle.

— Matt Rehm