Water is seemingly so plentiful; it’s sometimes easy to take for granted. But all it takes is a lingering drought or some type of service interruption to remind us of the limitations of this vital resource. While water is important for manufacturing, agriculture, mining, construction and recreation, there’s another need that surpasses each of those: drinking water is needed to keep each of us alive and healthy.
Providing water for the residents of the Brazos River basin is the emphasis of the Brazos River Authority, which is dedicated to the theme of this year’s event, protecting the source. Whether groundwater or surface water, communities need a reliable source of water to survive and to thrive.
The BRA was the first agency in the United States given the responsibility of managing the water resources of a whole river basin. The BRA owns and operates water supply reservoirs at Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone. Future plans include the construction of Allens Creek Reservoir in Austin County.
The BRA also partners with the U.S. Army Corps of engineers, leasing space for water supply from eight lakes throughout the Brazos basin: Proctor, Whitney, Aquilla, Belton, Stillhouse Hollow, Georgetown, Granger and Somerville.
Also part of the BRA’s water supply network are pipeline systems in the central part of the basin to transport water to customers in Williamson County. The BRA’s East Williamson County Regional Water System provides drinking water for people in that area.
This water is vital to our lives. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the average American drinks a little more than 4 cups of plain water per day. The average daily amount of total liquid Americans consume is about 3.18 liters, or 13.4 cups, with much of that in beverages other than plain water, and 18 percent in food.
A big part of protecting our water sources involves determining water quality. Environmental scientists with organizations including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the BRA are involved in this process, which includes gathering and studying test samples to identify potential sources of contamination. The process also involves informing people about potential concerns and working together with other agencies “to prevent, reduce or eliminate risks to your drinking water supply,” according to the EPA.
The BRA participates in the Texas Clean River Program, which involves monitoring more than 100 water collection sites throughout the basin.
Through this and other water quality protection programs, federal and state officials, as well as local stakeholders, develop planning strategies that address contamination or water service interruption. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act are a foundation for protecting water. State and local governments help to carry out and enforce the policies that keep our drinking water safe. But others also have an important role. For example, businesses, organizations, and individuals can all help protect our drinking water quality by reducing the use of contaminants and making sure these contaminants do not enter groundwater or surface water sources. It can be as simple as reducing the use of hazardous items around your home, making sure fertilizer does not run off your property and making sure septic systems are correctly maintained.
The EPA has identified several substances which can contaminate water, and which should be stored or disposed of properly to prevent this. The substances include: motor oil, pesticides, paint, mothballs, flea collars, household cleaners, and medication.
Protecting our drinking water also means not wasting it. Conservation is important, whether we are enjoying a year with plenty of rainfall or enduring one of Texas’ frequent droughts.
Information about ways to conserve water both inside and outside your home can be found here.
If you want detailed information about the quality of your drinking water, including Consumer Confidence Reports, the EPA has information available online at safewater. If you don’t see a Consumer Confidence Report listed for your area, you can contact your local drinking water provider for more information.
Details about drinking water quality and safety can also be found here.