6 Ways to Improve Water Quality Right In Your Backyard

August is National Water Quality Month, which is a great reason to remember that clean water is an invaluable resource to our communities both big and small. Aqua is committed to ensuring water quality. Our efforts to update and maintain infrastructure are one way Aqua helps make a difference, but we like celebrating the simple ways individuals can make a difference, too.

Here are six easy ways you can stand with us in our pledge to protect the water in our communities.

Wash the Days of Disposing of Chemicals in Your Sink or Toilet Down the Drain

If you need to get rid of paint, chemical cleaners or any other questionable liquids, do not dispose of them in your sink! Some of the chemicals in these products can be toxic, so you do not want them to get into your water supply. Instead, it’s easy to find a proper way to dispose of these hazardous waste materials by searching Earth911 or by contacting your local sanitation, public works or environmental health department.

Additionally, non-biodegradable objects such as baby wipes, feminine hygiene products and medicines should never be flushed down the toilet as a method of disposal. Instead, dispose these items in their proper trash receptacles or see if your local pharmacy has a take-back program to safely get rid of pills.

Hit the Road with Improper Car-Washing Techniques

You might think washing your car at home is a no-brainer, but you may be surprised to know that because many car-washing soaps contain mixtures of various chemicals, you could be unknowingly contaminating your water supply.

When you use cleaning products inside your home, the used water goes straight to a treatment plant through sanitary sewer systems. The leftover water from washing a car outside, however, often goes down storm drains and ends up in water supply systems without undergoing proper treatment.

Instead, consider getting your car washed at a commercial business designed to handle all the watery runoff. Professional car washes tend to use 60 percent less water than at-home methods, too. If you prefer to wash your own car, make sure to invest in biodegradable and phosphate-free cleaners. Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass, and use a trigger nozzle on your hose to conserve water. 

Put Your Banana Peels To Good Use

 

Common lawn chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides are often used to care for gardens and yards. When they aren’t used correctly, though, they can enter into streams where they can harm critters and contaminate drinking water.

Instead, consider using compost as a natural fertilizer. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a helpful guide to how to get started. Composting adds nutrients and organic matter back into soil without relying on harmful chemicals found in synthetic fertilizers. 

Make Picking Up Your Pet’s Number Two Your Number One Priority

When you don’t pick up your pet’s waste, you put yourself and your water supply at risk. During rain storms, a lot of this waste runs straight into storm drains that—you guessed it—do not get treated to ensure water quality.

Did you know you can make it a priority for your neighborhood to clean up after its four-legged friends by coming together to install a community waste bag station? Consider fundraising to buy a ready-made waste station, or rise to the challenge building your own.

Throw Litter For a Loop

Litter on streets, sidewalks and parking lots easily washes into our water systems. Even if you would never dream of littering, it’s important to note that it still happens all the time. People are less likely to litter when it isn’t the norm, so instead of relying on others to pick up trash, challenge yourself to lead by example. 

Organize a Community Clean-Up 

The most effective way to protect water quality in your community is to go straight to the source. Enacting a community clean-up of your local watershed can do wonders for your local ecosystem and water supply. There are plenty of existing toolkits that make it as easy as possible for community members to organize clean-up efforts at local rivers or streams.

You can also search for established clean-up projects in your area. Most groups are always looking for volunteers and would be happy to include you in their efforts.

Clearly, a great deal of planning goes into a community clean-up, but a commitment to water quality in the long-run is beneficial to all.

There are so many ways to protect the water in your community. Together we can ensure that the quality of our water remains a priority for ourselves, our families and generations to come. 

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Aqua Illinois Focuses on Carrying Out Our Mission

World Water Day was one week ago today! This annual event, which focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of fresh water resources, falls on March 22 every year. It is Aqua’s mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource: water. In recognition of World Water Day, we are spotlighting the efforts being put forth by one of Aqua’s eight state operations. Aqua Illinois Regional Environmental Compliance Manager Kevin Culver is passionate about Aqua Illinois’ efforts to execute our mission; this is his story.

 

Water quality and water sustainability are incredibly important to the team at Aqua Illinois. As the regional environmental compliance manager, I am responsible for maintaining a high standard of water quality, carrying out our source water protection plan, and overseeing our company’s environmental efforts to improve the water sources close to home. 

 

At Aqua, we believe that the cleaner the source water, the better the drinking water quality for our customers. At most of our facilities, we do not control the water sources or land adjacent to them, so we must rely on our customers and partners to assist us with keeping our water as clean as possible. To better ensure success in this area, Aqua Illinois organizes and participates in various outreach and education efforts. Some of these are specifically aimed at local youth, because we believe that children can get involved and bring home a lasting message that what they do in their back yard will impact their water or someone else’s water downstream.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and The Pause for Patriotism community event.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and the Pause for Patriotism community event. 

 

Specifically, Aqua Illinois focuses a lot of attention on maintaining and enhancing the water quality of the Kankakee River. The Kankakee River is our water source for nearly 80,000 customers. Aqua Illinois works to raise awareness and educate the local community, lawmakers and the farming community, about the importance of the Kankakee River, not only as a water source, but as a natural resource to the entire area. Among the valuable information we have shared with the community about the river is the impact that nutrient runoff has on drinking water quality. One example of how our education efforts have worked is that farmers in our local areas are now planting cover crops and significantly reducing nutrient runoff.

Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes.

 Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes. 

 

To expand our education efforts and reach a larger audience, Aqua Illinois participates in various watershed conferences, including the recent Kankakee River Watershed Conference, which took place Feb. 10 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. These types of events give us great exposure and allow us to send our operators, engineers and area managers to connect with attendees and share their knowledge with larger groups of people. Aqua is serious about its commitment to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource, and the company as a whole takes pride in all of its efforts to achieve this commitment.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snow Storms, Road Salt and Drinking Water Quality – What’s the Connection?

Most people don’t make a connection between salting their sidewalks, driveways and roads, and their drinking water, but there is a connection.

Believe it or not, road salts were not used in the U.S. until after 1942. Prior to then, abrasives (ash and cinders, sand) were typically used. After World War II, the expansion of the federal highway system helped facilitate the widespread use of road salts in highway safety. Today, 8 to 12 million tons of road salts are applied on highways every year. In 2016 alone, highway deicing consumed about 44 percent of the 42 million tons of total salt produced in the U.S.  


So, what does the salt placed on roads, highways and sidewalks have to do with drinking water? Well, it’s simple. When the snow melts, the road salt eventually runs off into storm drains and ends up in a local stream or river. As a result, sometimes water might taste a little salty immediately after the snow melts. It can also eventually make its way into the groundwater.

Over the past several decades, there has been an increasing trend in the levels of sodium and chloride in fresh water streams and rivers. Salt is very difficult to remove from water without using desalination equipment, which is not a practical technology for most water supplies that are not in desert areas. Salt in streams and other fresh water sources has a major impact on the fish and other aquatic life that cannot tolerate the salt levels. Salt actually sticks around in the streams and rivers and gradually makes them more salty over time.

So, what can we do? We need salt to keep our roads, highways and sidewalks safe. Balancing the need for safety with protecting drinking water supplies has been a challenge water suppliers, environmental organizations, and highway administrators, from the Great Lakes to New England, have been working to solve for some time now. Here are a couple of things you can do because every spoonful of salt counts. 

  • Use salt brine application prior to a snow event. Many highway organizations already do this, which saves money and makes roads safer.
  • Do not dump deicing salts onto storm drains to unblock a frozen drain. If you can’t clear them by hand, use hot water instead.
  • Don’t dump left over rock salt and deicing chemicals onto the ground or down storm drains. Talk to your local municipality about the best way to dispose these leftover chemicals.
  • Consider alternatives, such as beet juice, to salt pavements and driveways when possible. The sugars in beet juice have been used for deicing in areas around the Great Lakes. These are also typically pet-friendly as well, although, you should always check the label to confirm.
  • Try shoveling your sidewalk or driveway first, and let the sun to melt the sidewalk. Use salt on hard-to-melt areas.

The following articles by Steve Corsi from United States Geological Survey provide a more in-depth look at the science of road salt and its impact on streams, rivers and aquatic organisms:

Evaluating chloride trends due to road-salt use and its impacts on water quality and aquatic organisms

River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons

 

 

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