Clean fresh water is a precious and limited resource that is necessary for life. We depend on it for so many things, including cooking and drinking. Unfortunately, many of our global freshwater resources are currently polluted or at risk of being polluted[sc:1]. While it is certainly true that industry contributes greatly to water pollution worldwide, what we personally do also has a large impact on these resources. Making conscious choices to conserve and protect water could reduce water pollution dramatically.
Here is a list of 20 actions that you can take to help keep our water resources clean:
- Don’t dispose of any household chemicals or cleaners in the sink or toilet[sc:2]. All hazardous household waste, such as used oil, paint, and cleaning products should be properly disposed of at a hazardous waste facility to prevent them from polluting the land and water.
- Used motor oil should be recycled and never poured onto the ground or into storm drains or sanitary sewers. It takes only a single quart of motor oil that has seeped into the ground to pollute 250,000 gallons of water[sc:4].
Proper automotive maintenance reduces the opportunity for leakage of oil, coolant, and antifreeze from vehicles[sc:4].
- Do not flush any pharmaceutical drugs down toilets or sinks[sc:2]. To found out how to properly dispose of these materials, contact your local public health authority.
- Do not dispose of trash into the toilet. Waste items such as wrappers or paper should be disposed of in a proper trash receptacle[sc:2].
- As appropriate, opt to compost your organic materials rather than through a garbage disposal[sc:2]. For guidance on the types of organic materials that can and cannot be composted, you can learn more information here.
- Use the minimum amount of detergent or bleach necessary to wash your clothes, or use environmentally-friendly alternatives[sc:2].
- Minimize or eliminate your use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in your home and yard. If you must use these types of products, do not dispose of them or any other potentially hazardous chemicals (such as motor oil or automotive fluids) into a sanitary sewer or storm sewer, which lead to local water bodies[sc:2].
- Do not throw trash into rivers, lakes, or oceans and help to clean up litter that you see on beaches [sc:3]. Be sure to use common sense and safety during the cleanup process.
- By practicing water conservation at home and elsewhere, such as by turning off a running faucet, you can help to reduce water shortages as well as the volume of water that needs treatment[sc:3].
- Use environmentally-friendly household products and garden and lawn care methods that do not contain any water-polluting chemicals. Using native plants and natural fertilizers in your yard and garden reduces that need for watering and for using commercial fertilizers. Using products like compost, peat, rotted manure, and bone meal help plants to grow and help to retain moisture in the soil[sc:4].
Planting trees and shrubs and other plants on your property will help to slow down water flow and recharge groundwater.
- Do not overwater gardens and lawns[sc:4].
- If you must apply pesticides and fertilizers to your lawn, use the minimum effective amount[sc:3]. The extra amount will not be absorbed by your lawn and will only run off into the street once it rains. Do not apply such chemicals shortly before it rains to reduce chemical runoff effects as well.
- Decrease the amount of impervious surface that surrounds your home[sc:4]. Typical concrete sidewalks and driveways encourage water to runoff our lawns and into the street (eventually ending up in local streams, rivers and lakes), taking any pollutants such as lawn chemicals, motor oil, and even pet waste with it. By installing pervious pavement and driveways around our homes, we can help to recharge groundwater resources, and prevent runoff and pollutants from reaching our local watersheds.
- Installing a rain garden or planting water-friendly plants in lower areas on your property can help to capture rainwater and runoff that would otherwise wash off into the street and end up in local water bodies. Redirect your rain gutters and downspouts away from buildings and instead to rain barrels, grass, gardens, or gravel areas to help capture rainwater[sc:4].
- Properly dispose of all pet waste to keep it from running off your yard and going into storm drains.
- Washing your car at home can cause water pollution when automotive chemicals and detergents run off driveways and into the street. Either opt for cleaning your car at home using waterless car wash products or for a commercial car wash where they recycle their wastewater and dispose of it into sewer systems where it undergoes proper treatment[sc:4].
- Purchase products from companies and farmers that are mindful of water pollution with their business practices and make efforts to prevent it.
- Educate yourself and get involved in local community water resource issues. Join an environmental organization in your community that monitors industrial water pollution and works with regional government agencies and national groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council to ensure regulation compliance[sc:4].
- Volunteer to help clean up streams, beaches, and lakes in your community.
- Advocate for policies and for political leaders that help to protect water resources and conserve them from pollution.