If you are American, you have a lot to be grateful for. Unlike several other countries, you do not have to live with a violent civil war, you have freedom of speech, and most importantly, you are given constant access to clean, safe drinking water. That is a luxury that is not afforded to about 780 million people worldwide, and countless numbers of people around the world have contracted illnesses as a result of unclean water supplies.
But this does not mean that Americans are out of the woods. A recent study from the EPA is showing that a large percentage of streams, lakes and bays are no longer clean enough to support swimming, fishing, or other activities. And the reason for this is water pollution.
One of the main causes of water pollution in American is urban stormwater runoff, otherwise known as water from rainstorms that enters sewage from parking lots, streets, driveways and other paved surfaces carrying oil, grease, and chemicals. In fact, in most city areas where the pavement is impenetrable, as much as 55% of the water runs off. This debris, grime and dirt then enters the bays, lakes and rivers, making them less safe for water activities, and also the aquatic life forms that live within them.
While there is nothing you can do about the amount of rainfall nature decides to pour, there are things you can do to help curb the causes of water pollution.
- You can begin by disposing of all trash and waste material properly. There is a reason why public restrooms ask you to refrain from flushing tampons, diapers, and other products down the toilet. These items simply do not decompose, add human waste to water supplies, and ultimately clog water pipes. Cooking oil should always be disposed of in the trash to reduce the amount of oil that enters water supplies. The same applies to medication disposal, and many bottles warn against dumping leftover or old pills into the toilet. These pills dissolve and add pollutants as well as harsh chemicals into the water, and should only be disposed of in the trash.
- While fertilizers provide sufficient growth for your plants, chemicals from fertilizers and other sprays can be harmful pollutants. In fact, agricultural runoff is another one of the leading causes of water pollution. You can help by trying to plant native plants that do not require as much water, and also composting. Scraps from your garden, like fallen leaves, twigs, and even veggies or fruits can be composted, which removes them from possible streams of runoff.
- You can also participate in local water cleanups. There are many organizations that mobilize citizens to help clean up local streams, lakes, and rivers. Many people throw empty bottles, cans, and coffee cups near the shore, and the remnants of these liquids slowly drip into the water, causing pollution. You do not even have to wait for an organization to be active either; you can head out your local beach or lake with a garbage bag in hand. Even if this does not stop waste that is already in the water supply, it helps remove external pollutants from contaminating the water.
For more information about how to reduce water pollution, you can contact your local water conservation organization. As more people become aware of the dangers of water pollution, there is a greater chance of stopping it before it ruins the clean water supply that every American has the privilege of accessing.