What are some of the things I can do around my home to help prevent pollution of drinking water sources?

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Even as an individual you can play an important part in protecting our water’s future. Every one of us has an impact on the water cycle, and reducing water usage at home is just part of the solution. Improving the ways you handle wastewater around your house and garden, what happens to run-off around your home when it rains, and how as a resident of your city you can minimize your impact on the environment can also make a huge difference to the water cycle. The four key areas we all need to consider are water supply, stormwater, wastewater, and groundwater.

If your home is on a sewage system, the following can be safely poured down a drain, followed by flush water: disinfectants, rust removers, hair relaxers, water-based glues, drain cleaners, aluminum cleaners, window cleaners, photographic chemicals. A hazardous waste contractor should dispose of all other liquid home products. A similar type of list has not been developed for homes with a septic tank. Telephone your local health department to get information on the disposal of specific products.

Some simple tips include: simply cutting three minutes off your daily shower will save around nine buckets per day, while installing a dual flush toilet saves half a bucket for each flush, you can help ease pressure on the sewerage system by re-using wastewater on the garden, taking care what you put down the drain, and reducing the amount of clean water you use.

How can I help prevent pollution of drinking water sources? Properly dispose of the chemicals you use in your home. Every chemical you buy has the potential of polluting the environment if disposed of improperly. Remember, if your home is served by a sewage system, your drain is an entrance to your wastewater disposal system and eventually to a drinking water source. Discharges from septic tank drain fields may pollute groundwaters. Treat your wastewater system with respect.

When it rains, it pollutes! Unfortunately, this is too often true. Rain and melting snow act as a water hose, washing the landscape free of loose dirt and grime. While good washing helps spruce up our communities after a long winter or summer dry spell, it does little for the health of our rivers, lakes, and wetlands. That is because materials washed off the land eventually end up in the water, where they can become harmful pollutants. Pollution caused by rain and snowmelt washing the landscape goes by several names. It is called stormwater pollution because it is caused by storms, runoff pollution because it is carried by rain and snowmelt runoff, and nonpoint-source water pollution, a technical name meaning it is different than point-source water pollution.

Point source water pollution is the type of water pollution that comes from an industrial or wastewater discharge pipe — a definite point, or location, on the landscape. Controlling stormwater pollution is a challenge. It is a challenge because sources of pollution come from many locations across the landscape and are associated with weather — something we cannot control. Controlling stormwater pollution requires everyone’s action, from the homeowner to the business owner, from the road builder to the street sweeper.

Finally, If you want to ‘do your bit’ for the environment - and save money at the same time - simply remember the 3 Rs:

  • Reduce your use of water;
  • Re-use wastewater wherever possible; and
  • Remember that whatever goes down your drain or into the ground, eventually ends up in our rivers, lakes and streams.

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