It’s the most essential resource we have: Water. We all take it for granted. We turn on the tap and expect clean water to flow out. But is it really clean? I recently watched a riveting film about the water infrastructure system here in the United States, and I was flabbergasted!
Because the 2 million miles of intricate water infrastructure is buried beneath our feet, we don’t think about it much. Perhaps if it were visible, we’d realize the dire need to repair and replace our aging systems and be willing to pay a little more for this precious resource.
Many cities and towns have what is called a combined sewer system, where rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater are collected in ONE pipe. Water treatment facilities become overwhelmed during some rainstorms, which leads to sewage and other pollutants overflowing into our watersheds and water supplies.
If you’ve ever wondered why swimming is not allowed in your local water body, for example, our outdated water infrastructure is a major culprit.
What you can do:
- Watch “Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure.” Take a quick look at the trailer at http://liquidassets.psu.edu.
- Lessen your burden on the public water system by reducing your water consumption, especially for lawn and garden watering.
- Collect rainwater in rainbarrels and raingardens instead of letting it runoff into the street, which leads directly to streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean (An average suburban house sheds 700 gallons of water in an average 1/2″ rain event!).
- Reduce your lawn by replacing grass with native plants. Lawns are practically impervious and rainwater just runs off, but native plants have deep roots, which aids in water infiltration that recharges the aquifers underground. Plus, native plant gardens require little water!
- Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces on your property. Our natural watersheds are so degraded because we’ve paved over them with surfaces that quickly transport all kinds of pollutants into our drinking water when it rains.
- Check out the Penn State Community Toolkit here if you’re interested in teaching others about this eye-opening issue.
Sources: Penn State Public Broadcasting; The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Abington Township Environmental Advisory Council