Facebook Twitter

WATER WATCH

Every day in the United States, we drink about 110 million gallons of water.

Every day the average American uses about 78 gallons of water.Water affects our health, our lifestyles and our economic well-being. But we don't always give it the attention it deserves.

"Because water flows so easily through out lives, we tend to take it for granted. We leave its care to others," says John Daniel, chairman of the National Drinking-Water Alliance, a coalition of government agencies and nonprofit groups that sponsors National Drinking-Water Week, being observed this year Sunday, May 7, through Saturday, May 13.

The alliance takes this opportunity to urge Americans to become "blue-thumb" water users. "Every one of us," says Daniel, "has the opportunity to take positive actions for water every day, both to curb pollution and to save water for future generations."

The alliance recommends three basic principles to guide your water actions: Conserve it, protect it, and become involved in local decisions that affect water sources and water quality.

Many routine household activities impact water in one way or another. Of course, you use water for drinking, in food preparation, in cleaning yourself and your home. But what and how you throw things away and what you grow in your garden can also make a difference.

In honor of National Drinking-Water Week, the Drinking-Water Alliance offers a list of things to know and do regarding water:

What everyone should KNOW about drinking water:

1. Every lake, river, stream and aquifer has its own unique water characteristics. Each of these fresh-water bodies has a different combination of minerals, chemicals and nutrients.

2. Pollutants, including pesticides, weed killers and hazardous chemicals, routinely find their way into water sources.

More than 200 million pounds of contaminants are dumped into our water resources every year. And "non-point-source" pollution, which is caused by pollutants washed off lawns, farms, streets and landfills, add additional contaminants.

3. Some communities have well-thought-out protection for their water sources; others do not. Concrete, asphalt and other urban construction near water bodies increase water pollution significantly. Trees, grasses and other natural buffers reduce water pollution.

4. Some water requires very simple treatment to meet drinking water standards; other water must go through complex treatment processes. All public water supplies using surface water sources are disinfected with chlorine to kill bacteria and germs. In addition, 50 percent of groundwater systems are disinfected. Some water, in addition, requires a six-step process to make it fit to drink.

5. The Safe Drinking-Water Act - a law passed by Congress in 1974 and amended in 1986 - regulates the quality of public drinking water in the United States. Each state enforces water regulations under the act and collects water monitoring and test results. Some utilities perform more than 10,000 water tests a year.

6. Water contaminants injurious to human health are of two basic types: organisms that may cause immediate illnesses and other substances that over time may result in more serious diseases. Some contaminants, Cryptosporidium, Giardia and coliform bacteria, for example, can cause short-term intestinal illnesses in normally healthy people. Long-term consumption of some water contaminants, such as lead, can cause nervous-system disorders.

7. If drinking water does not meet federal standards for quality, the water utility is required by law to notify its customers. Most violations of the Safe Drinking-Water Act are procedural and do not affect the health of consumers.

8. Fifteen percent of the U.S. population draw their water from private wells and springs, which may not be tested regularly. Many state health departments require testing; however, if you own a well, you are responsible for testing and treating the water yourself.

9. No state or federal taxes are used to operate public water utilities. Operational expenses and utility upgrades are paid for by consumers.

The average monthly water bill in the United States is $15, ranging from a low of $8 to a high of more than $40. Water rates are dictated by the cost of securing water, treating it, maintaining the treatment system, building and maintaining the distribution system and administrative operations.

10. No single home water-treatment device treats water for everything; various technologies reduce different contaminants. In most communities, home water-treatment devices are not needed. If you are considering purchasingone, however, it's important to research what the device will remove and to maintain it scrupulously, because some units can harbor disease-causing bacteria if not properly maintained and serviced.

What everyone should DO regarding drinking water:

1. Take potentially harmful products such as used batteries, motor oil, leftover paint, bug spray, weedkillers and some household cleaners to special collection centers. At the same time, look for more healthful alternatives to hazardous products. Remember that what you throw in the trash, pour down the drain or dump on the ground can get into your water source.

2. Plant low-water-use grasses and shrubs to cut your lawn watering. In many areas of the country, 50 percent to 70 percent of household water is used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens.

3. Remember to always start with cold water and heat it on the stove or in the microwave for cooking or drinking. Lead can get into drinking water from lead solder and pipes used in household plumbing. Because hot water picks up lead, never use water from the hot water tap to prepare baby formula, food or drinks.

4. Replace old, inefficient water fixtures and appliances with state-of-the-art counterparts to save water, energy and money. Low-flow shower heads, toilets and water-efficient appliances can save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Don't let the water run while you brush your teeth.

5. Learn to use natural methods for gardening and lawn care. Remember that as rainwater passes down through the ground, it can take any chemicals with it, contaminating the water.

6. Support local, state and national measures to protect watersheds and groundwater. Prevention means less treatment, which saves money and is more healthful in the long run.

7. If you own a septic system, have it inspected annually and pumped out regularly. Septic tanks can leak nitrates, bacteria and chemicals into groundwater.

8. Practice environmental actions to reduce, reuse and recycle.