Are you Inadvertently Polluting your own Drinking Water what can be done about it

Non-point source water pollution is a form of pollution that is not caused by one particular source, but rather from many sources. It is an inconspicuous form of pollution, in that it can’t be easily seen and the causes are many. Fortunately there are a number of remedies that can lessen the effects of this type of pollution.

Besides the more obvious benefits to human, and aquatic health, why should anyone be motivated to personally address their own contribution to this form of pollution? One reason is that your health and well being are at stake. Once water is polluted, it is a difficult and expensive task (if not cost prohibitive) to clean up, so any measures that can be implemented to stop this before it happens are desirable. Health concerns should be a major priority, and the common citizen is not powerless to do something about it. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are currently more than 160,0000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at any given time” and there are a number of threats to our drinking water from non-point source pollution.

There are solutions to remedy the problem naturally and with technology. But first, we need to know what the problems are so action can be taken to do something about it.

What is the Problem, and What Can Be Done?

Automobiles leaks oil into roadways and parking lots, which eventually run into storm drains and then into your waterways.

Ensure your vehicle is maintained regularly, and oil leaks are promptly fixed.

If you are a drive-through store owner, consider putting up signs that remind customers by turning off their engine they will save money on their gas bill (as well as help the environment.)

Teach environmental benefits (as well as health benefits) in P.E and Nutrition/ WIC classes to educate children & families. The health benefits gained from parking and walking even short distances are good for health, and reducing pollution. 

If you own a store, building or house, ask yourself “Is the parking area near or adjacent to a water source?” If the answer is yes, consider planting a buffer strip of grass or hedges that will help to intercept the oil run-off before it enters the water-way. Plants are natures filters and clean water naturally. For more information on how to do this, you can contact your local planning agency or transportation agency for advice.

Vehicle buy back (CAP) Consumer Assistance Programs may assist consumers in getting older, more highly polluting vehicles off the road. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to see if incentive payments are available in your state.

Pasture management that leaves at least two inches of grass after grazing, and utilizes rotational strategies filters nutrient run-off before entering the waterway. Consider hiring a conservation technician to help you design a management plan for your pasture.

Support small farmers, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Food grown from small farms is more likely to have nutrient rich soils, be more healthful, support local economy and small business owners. A CSA is typically run as a subscription service, where consumers purchase produce from local, organic farmers picked up weekly, or delivered to your doorstep-depending on the type of CSA.

Reduce the amount of personal pesticide/ herbicide and chemical use around your own household. Consider contacting your local Agriculture Extension Office, which can usually be located through community colleges for advice on planting beneficial garden vegetables, flowers and herbs to decrease the need for pesticides. Ask about non-toxic alternatives. Do some on-line research, as there are many natural alternatives for household cleaning agents.

Consider manual removal of unwanted, noxious weeds when feasible on a smaller scale. Consider hiring a teenager or at-home neighbor to do some of the work, or asking a church/youth group for assistance.

Avoid dumping chemicals and medications into the toilet. Your local waste management agency generally has publications available to assist you in finding the best way to dispose of these things, or call them and ask.

When designing a new building or home, consider green architecture alternatives, materials and design as part of your planning process. There are professionals that can assist you in determining the economic feasibility of a given project. Keep in mind that building structure and parking lot design can be built to reduce non-point source water pollution run-off.

Maintain and repair faulty septic systems, provide jobs for county workers and private contractors.

Utilize fire and fuels management to maintain forest health and adequate ground cover which intercepts sediment run-off from erosion caused by bare, sterile soils which result from large, hot fires and increased fuels. This also provides jobs for wild land firefighters, decreases insurance costs and losses to habitat and home structures located adjacent to forest settings. Consider not building structured communities further into forested areas.

Use Best Management Practices (BMP’s) when building near streams or on slopes, including; select cut tree harvesting, erosion control, and covering bare ground with hay, netting, jute or native plantings and seed to keep sediment from slipping into waterways. Hire an erosion control specialist to provide you with specialized assistance and locate possible grant funding options.

Smart technology; UV water disinfection plants, though costly can clean up drinking water using clean technology.  This alternative can help ensure the future of clean, healthy water for a population that relies on a large body of water with multiple uses for its drinking source.

Some of these solutions are costly and some are easy to solve, while others are more difficult and require regional planning efforts. Many of the answers can provide jobs and stimulate the economy.