What You Can Do to Protect the Health of Your Community’s Water

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Every living creature needs water to stay alive, but it can be hard to ensure safe sources when pollution continues to rise. Most people show a level of concern about their local water quality, but you may have extra worries when it comes to your family.

No one wants to expose themselves to harmful substances, but you may have little idea where to start when it comes to protecting your community’s water. Fortunately, you have numerous avenues to begin with.

Water testing is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to protecting local sources. Monitor changes in water quality standards, get in touch with legislators and lend your voice whenever possible.

Join Local Clean-Up Efforts

If your city doesn’t have hazardous waste collection days, now is an excellent time to start. Waste collection days allow you to bring harmful matter — like paint, batteries and antifreeze — to a nearby facility for safe disposal. This practice prevents dangerous materials from entering landfills or water sewage systems, causing more pollution.

Create a team of volunteers or join an existing one to remove debris from storm drains and curbs. You’ve probably seen leaves, grass and pine needles floating past in a stream of runoff. Have you ever thought about what this phenomenon spells for local bodies of water? This runoff channels into your lakes, streams and rivers and increases the pollution rates, leading to lowered quality and murky, unattractive waters.

What about pollutants you can’t see with the naked eye? Heavy metals and pesticides often end up in rainwater runoff. Though they’re not visible, they pose real repercussions.

Do a Water Quality Audit

Water audits can uncover potential or existing problems with your supply, allowing you to solve them before they get worse. Testing your water gives you more control over what you put in your body, and knowledge is power. Keeping your family safe is a big deal, and it’s challenging to do that when you don’t know what’s in your water.

Perform an audit with the help of relatives and acquaintances, or enlist a professional service to do it for you. Every process will be different depending on what you’re checking for, but the basic steps of a water audit are typically the same:

  1. Determine your aim: What’s your reason for a water audit? Do you only want to check for quality, or do you want to uncover ways to conserve water and save money?
  2. Define the scope: Are you checking the water’s pH, sulfur or iron content? Maybe its chlorine levels? You can test for a wide range of substances. Multiple options provide you with more freedom. Have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start.
  3. Gather your data: Perform the audit once you have your plan of action. This plan can include testing your water and reviewing local water records.
  4. Monitor the subject: Keep an eye on your data to notice any fluctuations, whether good or bad.
  5. Share your findings: Once you and your family have information about your water source, discuss what this information means for the future.
  6. Take action: Now that you know more about what’s in your water, you can take action. Contact your local health department and employ clean-up efforts to keep your water safe.

Reduce Your Chemical Usage

Substances like paint and household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Long-term exposure to these chemicals can cause health problems such as memory loss, organ damage and eye or respiratory irritation. The worst part? These compounds are common groundwater contaminants, meaning you and your family may have ingested them at some point.

Although these products have specified disposal procedures, many people pour them down the drain or flush them down the toilet. Everything you flush or pour enters the community sewer system or your septic tank. Hazardous materials that make it into bodies of water can kill or negatively affect marine life if concentrations are high. These materials don’t bode well for the human body, either — about 1 billion people get sick each year from exposure to unsafe water.

Dispose of hazardous chemicals properly and substitute harmful substances for natural alternatives when possible. This practice reduces the number of chemicals swimming in your local water supply. Varnishes and paints without VOCs are becoming more accessible, and you can make natural cleaning supplies with common household ingredients.

Host a Test Your Well Event

If you live in a place where many people own private wells, you can host a “Test Your Well” event to educate residents on gauging groundwater quality and proper techniques to dispose of chemicals. You’ll need a group of volunteers and a public place to hold the event, such as a community center. Many organizations hold similar events at schoolhouses. Consider collaborating with your kid’s school as a fun way to get everyone involved.

Use reagent test strips or colorimeters for groundwater testing. You can obtain these from the local health department or other facilities specializing in water monitoring. Watch for high concentrations of nitrates — especially in homes where small children and pregnant women live. High nitrate levels can affect the body’s ability to carry oxygen through the blood, causing fatigue, abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

Everyone brings in a sample of their well water for testing, and they can decide how to use gained information concerning their water protection practices. Maybe they already have adequate measures in place. If not, they can always implement new ones. Everyone’s well water won’t be the same, which is why it’s essential to develop individual plans.

Give Your Input

Contact your local health department, water supplier or watershed association to ask them about your drinking water source. Inquire about its quality, as well. Public agencies are required to provide information about contaminant levels and potential health effects. Send an online comment form to the EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water for any questions you may have, or call their hotline.

The Clean Water Act requires communities to hold a public hearing every time local water standards change — head to one and give your input on improvements the city can implement with water handling. Open meetings are a convenient channel for amplifying your voice and letting local officials know how you feel. No one will know your concerns unless you speak, so don’t be afraid to share your opinions.

Provide Your Family With a Cleaner Future

Protecting your community’s water is a worthy cause, and it’s even easier when you do it as a collective. Get your family, friends and neighbors involved in the effort to keep your drinking water sources safe. Caring for your community improves everyone’s health and safety and fosters meaningful connections.

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