December 9, 2017 Green Living, Water Pollution Written by Megan Ray Nichols
Guide to Preventing Water Pollution
Freshwater is a finite resource.

Plants, animals and humans need fresh water to survive. Unfortunately, modern practices, including mass production, energy generation and carelessness, are resulting in high levels of water pollution.

While treating water to make it safe for human consumption is possible, it’s a costly process. The best method to prevent water pollution is to stop polluting in the first place. Here’s a quick guide to decreasing water contamination.

Properly dispose of old medicine

Old medicines, medications and pharmaceuticals are designed to dissolve and be easily absorbed by your body. When these products are flushed down the toilet or sink, they will begin to break down and mix with the water. Water flushed down your toilet and sink will end up at a wastewater treatment facility and will eventually make its way back to the environment.

Wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove medication and pharmaceutical contaminants from water, so these chemicals ultimately end up in the water supply. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to determine the best way to dispose of old medications.

Wait to run your dishwasher until its full

Dishwashers use a high volume of water and soap to clean dishes. Rather than run the machine when you’ve only got a few dishes, wait until it’s full to minimize the amount of water you use.

The same applies to washing machines. While some machines have a small load setting, they still use a high volume of water to clean clothes. Instead of washing a couple of items at a time, wait until you have a full load to reduce the amount of water used per wash.

Use eco-friendly cleaning products

Commercial cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that eventually work their way through water treatment systems and end up in lakes, streams and rivers. Animals and marine life may then ingest these chemicals and get sick or die.

Humans are then exposed to these chemicals as well when recreationally fishing, swimming or boating. Use organic or biodegradable cleaning products instead.

Limit your use of fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphate, two nutrients that plants need to grow and thrive. Unfortunately, each time it rains, excess fertilizer is washed off of gardens and lawns and into lakes, rivers and streams.

Marine plants including algae then grow excessively and deplete the oxygen in the water, which kills off fish and other marine animals. Limit fertilizer use whenever possible or consider planting greenery that is native to your area and will require less fertilizer to grow effectively.

Clean up after your pets

Pet waste is a significant environmental hazard. Rain will eventually wash the animal waste into storm sewers and streets, where it travels untreated into waterways. This can contribute to higher volumes of harmful bacteria that cause waterborne diseases. Clean up after pets regularly and dispose of waste properly to prevent water pollution.

Repair aging water infrastructure

Ask your town or city to investigate and upgrade any aging water infrastructure. Degrading pipes can leak over time, which may cause harmful pollutants to leach into the surrounding soil and contaminate groundwater supplies. Aging lines also have direct impacts on residents as well as the environment.

Old drinking water lines may contain lead or other heavy metals which may degrade when exposed to water treated with chlorine, similar to the Flint, Michigan water crisis which exposed residents to harmful water. At the end of the day, aging infrastructure needs to be replaced to protect families and local ecosystems in their neighborhoods.

Use permeable pavement

Impermeable surfaces such as roads, driveways and sidewalks prevent rainwater from infiltrating into the ground. Additionally, hard surfaces are often covered in pollutants such as gasoline, oil, salt and other chemicals from cars and trucks.

Rainwater can’t soak through hard pavement and eventually carries these contaminants to various bodies of water. Permeable pavement and surfaces allow water through, where it can be better purified through Earth’s natural processes.

Install rain gardens

Encourage your city to invest in rain gardens in large parking lots, around roadways and in parks. Rain gardens are typically built in low-lying areas where rainwater will collect over time.

The plants in rain gardens naturally absorb contaminants and prevent them from entering water bodies. Excess water is either directed back to a different body of water or is absorbed by the ground over time.

Water pollution can be prevented. By making a couple small changes in your routine, you can help save the environment.

This is a guest post written by Megan Ray Nichols.

nicholsheadshotMegan Ray Nichols is a science writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. She enjoys discussing scientific discoveries and exploring the world around her. Follow her on twitter @nicholsrmegan.