CLEVELAND, Ohio — As part of our ongoing Planet CLE Initiative, this month we are highlighting a national campaign - encouraging all of us to "get to know - H2O." August is National Water Quality Month -- and its all about making the most of the relatively small amount of fresh water we have on this planet.
The movement dates back to the 70's, when the federal government began cracking down on pollution. A prime example, our own Cuyahoga River, which gained national attention for the damage we'd done.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 made it illegal to dump high amounts of toxic materials into bodies of water. And the Safe Drinking Act of 1974 further protects ground and public water systems. We've come along way since then, but still have far to go.
"We're spoiled here. We can go to our tap and turn it on, and we have some really great water," said Kristin Hall, Executive Director of the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District. Each Ohio county has its own Soil and Water Conservation District, devoted to protecting these resources. Education and awareness are tantamount to its mission.
"Where does the water fall from your home? Where does it go after it leaves your storm drain. What are the nearby water bodies that may be carrying that water to Lake Erie?" said Hall, as she encouraged all of us to think about our impact on the water that leaves our home.
So how can you play a part in this initiative?
- Don’t hose down your driveway, use a broom.
- Pick up after your pet: Animal waste is full of nitrogen which can remove oxygen from the water leaving it completely unusable for aquatic life.
- Do not flush medication down the toilet
- Don’t use fertilizer made with phosphorus: After heavy rainfall or watering, these chemicals can leak into nearby groundwater sources. Try using organic materials or waiting for drier weather if you absolutely need to use lawn care products.
- Avoid using antibacterial soaps or cleaning products in your drain as they are also toxic to marine life.
- Install a rain barrel to collect rainwater: This will not only save you money, but can also be used for watering your lawn or garden.
- Rethink your lawn: Consider less grass and more native plants.
"One of the big contributors to some of our water quality issues is fertilizer Obviously we all want that green luscious grass, but maybe you wanna take a step back and see where, where do you not need some grass on your property?" Hall said.
As water leaves our homes it may be "out of sight, out of mind" but it should never be taken for granted.
"It's sometimes hard to see that connection because it's gone, and you don't see it. But that's really one of the first steps in starting to appreciate the water that is around us and how you might be connected to it," Hall said.
Considering a rain barrel? Cuyahoga SWCD regularly hosts rain barrel workshops and pick up events to connect residents with the materials and tools to build their own rain barrels. Not in Cuyahoga County? Check with your county government to find programs in your community.
The Central Lake Erie Basin Collaborative’s website will help you find the watershed you live in and connect you to the organizations doing water quality work in your area.
More Planet CLE coverage:
- August Planet CLE challenge: Protect the water quality of our Great Lake, rivers and streams
- Planet CLE: Cleveland's Argonauts on a quest to keep waterways clean and safe
- Planet CLE: A little refill can go a long way to sustainability
- Planet CLE: Floating 'seabins' to collect hazardous debris from Lake Erie marinas