When we turn on a water faucet at home, we expect safe drinking water to come out, and in most cases it does. What can we do to keep drinking water safe? Plenty.
Previous posts covered clean water and safe drinking water legislation. In this last post of the series, we’ll talk about personal actions we can all take to protect water sources and prevent water pollution.
Knowledge is Power
“Knowledge is power”
— Francis Bacon
If you are not already familiar with safe drinking water laws, regulations, and the water utility that provides your drinking water, now is a good time to become informed.
Visit the EPA’s website to learn about federal clean water and safe drinking water laws and regulations and discover online tools you can use to learn about water in your own area. For instance, use the Safe Drinking Water Information System to find out if your water utility has any violations.
States have primary responsibility for ensuring your drinking water is safe so check out your state government’s drinking water programs.
Learn about your local water utility and where your water comes from. Become familiar with the information in the Consumer Confidence Report your water utility is required to issue every year, by law. Keep an eye out for and report suspicious activity near water utility plants and water sources.
Prevent Water Contamination
Water utilities obtain water from a variety of sources including rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wells. Preventing contamination of source waters is critical to drinking water safety.
Be Careful What Goes Down the Drain, Toilet, and Street
Whether its water running down the street from someone’s yard or business, or during a rainstorm, water picks up contaminants along the way, carries them into storm drains and eventually deposits them in rivers, lakes, and oceans. The stuff we put down our drains and toilets goes to a wastewater treatment plant and then to a river, lake, or ocean. Wastewater treatment does not remove all traces of every chemical compound or contaminant.
- Do not put household hazardous waste down drains, toilets, or gutters. This includes items such as used motor oil, leftover cleaners and solvents, unused or expired medications, and excess pesticides. 1 quart of oil can contaminate 2 million gallons of drinking water.
- Pick up pet waste and cigarette butts.
- Minimize or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use in your yard. Birds, bees, and other wildlife will appreciate this and help keep insect pests down. Picking weeds by hand is good exercise.
- Use environmentally friendly household cleaners and personal care items.
To learn more, check out the EPA’s Household Hazardous Waste web page or your county’s municipal waste website.
Fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide residues from industrial agriculture and manure runoff from large scale livestock operations pollute source waters. What can we do? Buy food grown and produced in a more earth friendly manner.
- Buy grass fed or pasture raised meat.
- Eat vegetarian.
- Buy organic.
- Buy from small, local farms.
- Compost fruit and vegetable scraps instead of putting them down the garbage disposal.
Don’t Waste Water
All water supplied by water utilities to homes is potable (safe for drinking). A tiny fraction is used for drinking, and some is used for food preparation and bathing. The remaining water is used to flush toilets, in dishwashers and washing machines, and for yard irrigation. Providing potable water takes a lot of energy, resources, and money, so let’s not waste it.
Advocate for Safe Drinking Water
- Contact your water utility, state, or federal officials for information or if you have a concern about your drinking water. I recently requested information from our local water utility about who tests our water and how the results are verified.
- Participate in local meetings to stay informed about water issues in your area and support efforts to protect water supplies. My spouse campaigned for a candidate running for a seat on our local water board.
- If necessary, become a whistle blower or activist. You never know what you can do until you are called to do it. For instance, Lois Gibbs, a stay-at-home mother who lived in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY, became an activist when she learned her son attended a school built on a toxic waste dump that was making her son and other people sick.
“Water is the driving force of all nature.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
- Environmental Working Group – Water Treatment Contaminants: Forgotten Toxics in American Water
- EPA – Protect Your Drinking Water for Life
- EPA – Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
- EPA – Water: Consumer Information
- EPA – Water Facts
- EPA – Water on Tap what you need to know
- Wikipedia – Safe Drinking Water Act