Water sustains all life. Entire ecosystems depend on it for their survival.
The United Nations has declared 2005-2015 an International Decade for Action “Water for Life” in order to emphasize the importance of water quality as it relates to sanitation, human rights, geography, urbanization and sustainability.
It has identified eutrophication or the incidence of high-nutrient concentrations – phosphorus and nitrogen – as the most widespread water quality problem globally. The way people manage wastewater from cities, farms and industrial sites contributes to this phenomenon, which contributes to water pollution everywhere.
August is National Water Quality Month in the United States.
Emphasizing how interlinked water systems are, the Audubon Society points to the dangers of runoff from agriculture, forestry, construction and people’s personal yards:
“Each individual household may not produce enough pollution to force a beach closing or cause a fish kill, but the combined output of all the homes in a community can be severe. And, consider that about half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coastline where runoff flows quickly to the ocean. This is why watershed protection — attention not only to the body of water but the area that drains into it — is important.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, which reports that 40 percent of the nation’s waterways suffer water quality problems, has a detailed watershed database, which allows users to locate which watershed they live in and learn about how polluted it is and what actions they can take to protect their regional water quality.
Below are ways individuals and families can prevent water pollution from their homes:
• not using antibacterial soaps or cleaning products
• not flushing unwanted or out-of-date medications down the toilet or drain
• not putting anything but water down storm drains
• fixing leaks that drop from cars and putting liners in driveways to collect oil and other materials
• avoiding using pesticides or chemical fertilizers
• choosing nontoxic household products when possible
• picking up after pets
• not paving properties