Most of us probably don’t give a second thought when we turn on our faucets, but that tall cool glass of water we fill doesn’t just magically appear. Whether the source is ground or surface water, the end product is the result of a thorough process to make sure it is safe for you and your family to drink.
National Drinking Water Week, celebrated from May 3-9, reminds us how important drinking water is in our everyday life. This week gives us a chance to reflect on this vital and limited resource and the things we can do to help ensure we continue to have a ready supply of clean water.
The water that flows out of our tap is used for cooking, cleaning and drinking among many other things. Nearly 34 billion gallons of this water is treated by water utilities each day. These water providers have stringent standards and requirements they must meet to ensure that you and your family are consuming safe and quality water.
You too can do your part to keep your water clean. Here are some ideas:
- When using fertilizers on lawns and gardens, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid using too much. In addition to potentially damaging your turf or plants, excess fertilizers can wash into our storm drains after a heavy rain, like we’ve had recently, or a good watering. Water that enters these drains eventually ends up in a nearby stream, river or lake, which is likely a source of drinking water.
- Be careful as well when putting pesticides on lawns and elsewhere outdoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year we apply about 67 million gallons of pesticides that contain harmful chemicals and toxins. Just like with fertilizer, excess pesticides can wash into our streams and reservoirs through storm drains-then into our drinking water.
- How about a good spring cleaning of old unwanted chemicals you’ve been storing for who knows how long? Throwing them away is not the answer. They will end up in a landfill, where they could seep into our groundwater supply. Pouring them down the drain is worse. Instead, why not gather them and drop them off at your nearest hazardous household waste collection center. Some communities have locations where you can drop off everything from old oil and gasoline to batteries and pesticides. Other places have special collection days once or twice a year. To learn more about collection sites around the state, please click here.
- Don’t flush old, unwanted medicine! Studies have found low levels of pharmaceuticals in some of our nation’s water bodies. Further research suggests that there may be some ecological harm when certain drugs are present, but so far, no evidence has been found of human health effects. While water treatment plants can remove some chemicals, at this time, wastewater systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals. If you have old medicine, take it to one of the regularly scheduled drug takeback events held around the country. You can find out about such efforts here.
- If you use a septic system, make sure it is properly installed and regularly maintained. Septic systems must also be placed a safe distance from water bodies, wells and other areas where they could seep into water supply. For more information about septic systems, their proper installation and regulations in Texas, click here.
If the drought has taught us anything, it is that water is not in unending supply. Even though the rains have returned and conditions have improved, it is vital we continue to use water wisely to meet the needs of Texas’ growing population for years to come.
Here are a few simple ways we can help make our water supply last:
- Replace showerheads with a more efficient low flow model. A new showerhead can save up to six gallons of water per minute.
- Place a plastic bag or bottle filled with water in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per fill.
- If you have a leak, fix it! Replace worn washers and valves on sinks and pipes. A leaking faucet can waste more than 3,820 gallons of water a year.
- Fill the sink with water instead of running it continuously while brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Run the dish or clothes washer only when fully loaded.
- Upgrade to a high efficiency washer. Most newer models use up to 40 percent less water and energy than a conventional washer.
- Don’t leave the water running while doing dishes; fill the sink with soapy water and rinse as needed.
- Do not over-water your lawn. Set sprinklers for times when it is the coolest to avoid evaporation.
- Choose your plants wisely! Buy plants that are native and can take the heat waves. Click here for more information on xeriscaping.
- Use lots of mulch in your flower beds and around trees to help hold in moisture.
Check out the Brazos River Authority’s water conservation pages, where you can learn many more tips, here. To learn more about National Drinking Water Week and ways you can participate, please click here.