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The Contribution of Households to Water Pollution

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We often hear about places in India and Africa, which don’t have access to clean water. But that’s far away and not a problem in the US – or is it?

The truth is, that clean water resources are incredibly important and not as abundantly existent as one may think. There are many factors in the US, which contribute to increasingly polluted rivers and lakes. This not only harms an incredible amount of wildlife, it can also pose a high risk of infection with harming bacteria and viruses for humans.

This is the reason for this website. I wanted to raise awareness for this very important topic, which impacts our daily lives and also collect the most important tips and facts about the reduction of water pollution, in order to help you and the environment. Thank you for taking the time to explore my page!

 

I’ve always heard about how big companies and pharmacies pollute our rivers and are incredibly bad for our environment. Birth control pills, medical waste, car oil… All of these products were the cause of all evil – in my mind, at least. However, through the course of my research, my focus on this topic has shifted. I’ve had many great email conversations with activists and experts on this topic and experienced a totally different approach to the conservation of clean water and ways to reduce water pollution in the United States:

Start small. Start with your own daily life.

My research has taught me, that hospitals and big companies aren’t the biggest cause of water pollution – we are. Household products and other goods we use for convenience in our daily life contribute majorly to polluted rivers and lakes. Only small changes can help save lives of many sea animals and create a safer and cleaner drinking experience for all of us.

 

How do pesticides in our household reach rivers and lakes?

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A big problem in regards to water quality in the US is stormwater runoff. Runoff water runs across the lands and picks up many pesticides and harmful materials (fertilizers, sediment, heavy metals, litter, pet waste…). This contaminated water then flows into storm drains. The big problem hereby is, that against popular belief, water in storm drains is not treated as wastewater and will therefore not be treated and cleaned in sewer systems. The collected water, contaminated with often times many pesticides, therefore flows into rivers and lakes, unfiltered. The Washington Department of Ecology even beliefs that about one-third of all polluted waters in the state of Washington are caused by polluted stormwater runoff.This is especially a problem before rainstorms, as pollutants and pesticides in the ground are absorbed by the storm water and get washed away into storm drains and therefore straight into rivers and lakes. Places, where this is especially a problem is in parking lots, where a lot of oil, grease, metals and coolants from cars flow into drains. Construction sites and streets in big cities are also a major problem. However, homeowners contribute to this process as well, as a lot of pesticides from fertilizers, washing liquid and other products cause pollution, too. I will talk about this topic more in section “What can I do to stop water pollution and create a cleaner environment?”, if you are interested.

 

What can I do to stop water pollution and create a cleaner environment?

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There are many ways, we as homeowners, can improve and create a better future for the water quality of our rivers and lakes. First of all, focusing on keeping storm drains clean at all times is a huge step in order to reduce water pollution. This includes fixing gas leaks on vehicles, never disposing of substances in storm drains on purpose and recycling oil, antifreeze and other fluids. Washing your car at home might cause unwanted oils to reach storm drains, so the commercial car wash (one, which is known for disposing of their waste properly) would maybe be a better idea. Of course, driving your car less could also be a great way of reducing pollutants reaching storm drains, so combining errands and getting vehicles emissions checked and repaired could also be a great way of creating a cleaner environment. Fertilizers are also a big concern regarding water quality. As I have previously already asked you in my little quiz, the worst time to fertilize your garden is before a rainstorm, as the fertilizers combine with the rain water and also reach storm drains. If fertilizers are required, make sure to use organic fertilizers (or use lawn clippings for this process). It is important to recycle lawn clippings and planting soil and a great way of reducing rainwater runoff would be to plant many water absorbent plants. Keeping pets out of streams and rivers, as for example, dog waste contains many harmful components like worms that could contaminate the water and also make us sick. Compost should also be kept away from streams and rivers maybe even support your local storm or surface water program.

All in all, it is best to make smart choices and be aware of your daily water consumption. When I’ve started this project I didn’t know a lot of causes of water pollution and just a little bit of research on this topic can do you a lot of good, it certainly did for me. I don’t think it is necessary to change major life habits, but I do believe the little things go a long way and can create a cleaner environment. 

Here is a checklist for you to fill out and maybe discover, what you could be working on!

Create your own user feedback survey
What I found by conducting a survey at school

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In my school, Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, I conducted a survey for my project to see, what the daily water consumption habits of my classmates look like. I did this to see, which topics we should maybe raise awareness about and where the major problems in water consumption lie. I’ve found out, that over 42% of my classmates didn’t know, that storm drains lead directly into lakes in rivers, without any kind of filtering system embedded. Because this is a major concern regarding water quality, we should definitely try to educate people on this topic and raise awareness, so more people can prevent the pollution of water. Asking my friends regarding this topic, they said, that they are absolutely open to change their habits, now that they know how harmful storm-water drains are.


However, up to 60% of the students at my school wash their cars at commercial carwashes, which is great. However, it would be even better to actually be aware of commercial carwashes, which dispose of their water correctly. The usage of organic vs. regular fertilizers at my school was fairly balanced, although organic fertilizers seem to even be used a little more than the regular ones, which is great to hear!

Only 22 % of my classmates ever experienced any issues with water quality or water supply at their homes, which is also a very positive statistic and reflects the great quality of our water sewage treatment plants. A little over 11% of Christ Church Episcopal School actively engaged in any water quality related projects. This already is a great rate, but I do think if we can raise more awareness for this topic more people will engage to help save wildlife, plants and our own health.

I’ve made this survey also available for you to take and I would love to learn about your daily habits to have a broader and more international perspective on this issue! I’ve attached the survey below, it doesn’t take long and it’s totally anonymous. Thanks for helping me out!
Create your own user feedback survey

Thank you for visiting my page and taking your time to hear me out on this topic, I really appreciate it!

I would love to hear your opinion on this topic or general feedback and improvement ideas in the form of comments on this webpage below or privately on the attached google doc fill-out form, which is totally anonymous.

 

 

I hope I could help you and educate you on some topics, have a great day!

Sources:

I’ve initiated several email conversations with experts on this topic. I want to thank Ms. Holis from UpstateForever especially for answering my questions and helping me gather information for my article and the quiz I embedded. Ms. Pilewski from the “Greenville Soil&Water Conservation District” also helped me a lot.

Research Sources:

King County Webpage 

Upstate Forever (Stormwater Banking Programme)

ReWa (Renewable Water Resources)

The Quiz, Survey and Google Doc were created by me with the help of the mentioned programs. I took information from websites and contacts above. My survey was conducted on a basis of 96 of my classmates. 

Fetured Image: https://pixabay.com/p-578897/?no_redirect

 

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COMMENTS: 3
  1. April 27, 2017 by Mia W.

    That is so interesting! I think you did great research with supportive evidence. I did not know that composts can pollute our water and this website was very informative.

  2. April 27, 2017 by Eva Fritsch

    It was really interesting to see what sorts of everyday things can contribute to water pollution. Great work!

  3. May 04, 2017 by Von A.K.

    Wir leben in einer Welt des Überflusses – so glauben wir jedenfalls – dieser Beirag sensibilisiert jeden, mit unseren Ressourcen besonders sparsam umzugehen. Super gemacht!

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Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.