The United Nations has declared August to be National Water Quality Month to bring awareness of the importance of water, to appreciate and protect our water resources, and to make the most of the relatively small amount of fresh water available.
Water is what makes our planet so unique and virtually everything on our planet relies on it. Having clean water is vital to our individual health, our collective agricultural needs, and the needs of our environment. It is the foundation of all life and important to sanitation, human rights, urbanization, sustainability, economic growth, etc.
Unfortunately, clean water is often taken for granted, especially by developed countries. Water is used for everything from drinking to recreation without a second thought. But not all water is created equal and having immediate access to clean water is not to be taken for granted..
What are the Problems?
Global water scarcity is by and large the product of the massive population growth that has been taking place over the last century. It is no easy task sustaining the needs of over 7 billion people. With more people comes more demand for water.
Water pollution is a major problem in today’s world. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 40% of the nation’s waterways are suffering from water quality problems, and 207 of our 397 national parks — 52 percent — have waterways that do not meet appropriate water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Polluting an already scarce water supply further reduces what can be safely used.
Where Do We Get Our Water?
Even though water makes up over 70% of Earth’s surface area, the total amount of freshwater found on Earth only makes up around 3% of the water supply, 1% of which is easily accessible.
Fresh Ground Water
This encompasses all the aquifers and other sources of water buried underground.
Fresh Surface Water
Surface water includes all the water found in our lakes, rivers, and other terrestrial sources.
Know Your Watershed
Watersheds are areas of land that separates water flowing to different large basins. This water often starts at snowpack at high altitudes, but can begin at any elevation above sea level or even from springs deriving from underground aquifers. The water is led by gravity through the landscape and joins up with other water streams to form rivers, which eventually make their way to the ocean. In the United States, all water falling to the east of the continental divide eventually makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. All water falling to the west of the continental divide makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. This is important because liquids, fertilizers, waste, etc. on the surface can be swept up the movement of water in the watershed and make its way to the ocean where it pollutes marine life.
Rivers on watersheds are often used to produce energy from hydroelectric dams and hydrokinetic current turbines. The U.S. Department of Energy and its laboratories work to make these facilities more powerful and efficient, as well as cleaner and safer to operate for water purity and the protection of aquatic life.
As mentioned, the ocean not only comprises 67% of the surface of the planet. While we obviously do not drink ocean water, that does not mean we are not reliant on it. In fact, our very existence depends on it because
- It is the Earth's largest carbon sink and is the primary driver of weather and climate.
- It is the biggest and most diverse collective ecosystem on Earth - one on which we depend for food and products.
Despite it being a central to our climate and weather as well as food, the ocean is polluted to the point there are dead zones where nothing can live and floating in the Pacific Ocean Is an island of trash twice the size of Texas called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: If we do not see it, it is out of mind. But as the ocean goes, so goes the planet.
Things You Can Do to Be Active and Protect Your Water During Water Quality Month…..and Throughout the Year
Understanding the source of drinking water is just the beginning. By getting more acquainted with where our water comes from, you can figure out where and how your local community gets their water. Knowing where your water comes from makes it easier to appreciate the quality of your local waterways, and can motivate you and your community to keep these water sources as clean as possible. In order to learn more about the water that comes out of your faucet specifically, you’ll want to read through your local water quality report. Most local municipalities offer a general report on their official website that should be updated annually.
- Learn about the current water crisis and water pollution issues
- Monitor water quality
- Reduce your household’s water usage by not wasting water while washing dishes, showering, or brushing your teeth
- Avoiding over-watering your lawn and use rain barrels to collect rainwater for landscaping use
- Check automatic sprinkler systems for proper coverage and to make sure there are no leaks or broken heads
- Volunteer in a local stream or beach cleanup or adopt a watershed with friends and family.
- Plant trees to prevent erosion
- Pickup after your pet as animal waste is full of nitrogen which can remove oxygen from the water leaving it unusable for aquatic life
- Do not hose down your driveway, patio and sidewalks – use a broom instead
- Do not flush expired or unwanted medication down the toilet because these products have toxic chemicals
- Take used oil or antifreeze to a service station or recycling center for proper disposal
- Use environmentally friendly soaps and cleaning products
- Don’t use fertilizer with phosphorus which is toxic to marine life, opting instead for organic materials
- Wash your car at a car wash which will prevent toxic chemicals from going down the storm drain and into the watershed as car washes drain into sewer systems so the water can be treated and reused – that is unless you use environmentally friendly detergent and a bucket to empty the soapy water down the sink rather than the gutter and storm drains
Together we can make a large impact this month. Spread the word that all of August is National Water Quality Month!
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