August is National Water Quality Month. The end of the summer is a good time to reflect upon this valuable resource and how important it is to our daily lives. Indeed, there are some who are concerned World War III will be fought over water.
Our bodies are 60% water, so we need non-contaminated water to stay healthy and to be vital residents of this Earth. Unfortunately, maintaining water quality is not an easy undertaking because of the huge amount of pollution which occurs from its use by manufacturing and the oil industry, and from the collateral damage often caused by farming. Non-Point source pollution is one of the largest water quality problems in the USA.
What can we do?
Although we can have little impact as one household, as a group of households we can have a big impact. Here is a list of things we can do to make a difference; some of them surprising:
- Plant native trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses*
- Replace non-porous paving with porous paving where appropriate
- Avoid using antibacterial soaps and cleaning products; use non-toxic household products
- Repair leaky faucets
- Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth and in between rinsing dishes and fruits and vegetables
- Do not hose down; sweep driveways, sidewalks, gutters and patios
- Do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on lawns and gardens unless absolutely necessary
- Install cisterns and rain barrels to collect water for use on your lawn and gardening
- Install cisterns, rain barrels and rain gardens to collect water to keep it from overflowing into sewers**
- Reduce lawn area
- Mow grassy areas responsibly and only as necessary***
- Irrigate and water responsibly****
- Make certain all hoses have shut-off nozzles to prevent leaks and unnecessary water use
- Mulch traditional non-native plantings
- Group plants according to their water needs; use drought-tolerant plants
- If you wash your own car, do so over grass or gravel to prevent contaminated water from going directly into sewers
- Do not pour anything other than water down storm sewers;
- Do not flush unused and outdated medications down the toilet; take to a disposal center
- If you change your own car’s oil, do not drain on the ground; dispose at the local landfill
- Scoop up and discard into garbage receptacles your pet’s poop
- Do volunteer to help your community keep the streets, rivers, wetlands and beaches clean of debris
- Do spread the word about the importance of clean water. Water is life!
- Remember — water that enters storm sewers goes into our waterways before the treatment plants!
- Remember — the more contaminated water goes into the treatment plant, the more it costs to make it potable again!
*Native plants evolved with the environment in which they are native. Hence they require no additional water, no fertilizers, no pesticides. But remember! A native plant out of place is no longer a native plant.
**Cisterns, rain barrels and rain gardens help collect excess runoff from roofs, driveways and sloped yards. That water can then be used to irrigate lawns and gardens; even wash cars. There are countless ways this saved rain water can be used instead of using potable drinking water.
***The taller the grass is allowed to grow, the deeper the roots. The deeper the roots, the more efficient the nutrient and water intake. Tall fescue, bluegrass, ryegrass and some of the warm season grasses will endure heat, drought and other environmental stresses easier if they are maintained at 3″ or 4″ all year. Never cut off more than 30% off the grass blade. More than 30% will reduce its photosynthesizing surface area too much and it will direct nutrients and energy toward rebuilding its leaf blades instead of growing its root system. Mow only when your lawn needs mowing and with a sharp blade, so grass leaves stay healthy. Most of the nutrients in the grass blades are concentrated in the tips; mow so you’re recycling the clippings as fertilizer instead of bagging them to prevent thatch.
****If using spray irrigation, do not water lawn except in the cool morning to avoid evaporation. Do not water pavement. Use drip irrigation so water goes directly to the roots of the plants.