More Water Facts
Eileen Berger Indian Trail Master Naturalist
In a previous article we discussed our need for water, and the two sources of water available to us; surface water in lakes, rivers, creeks and ponds, and ground water stored in aquifers. Now we will discuss what happens to the water once it has reached these destinations.
“A watershed is an area of land that water flows across, through, or under on its way to a stream, river, lake or ocean. Each drainage system has its own watersheds and all drainage systems and watershed are connected across the lands.” This statement was taken from Texas Watershed Stewards Handbook, by Jennifer Peterson et al, a publication of Texas A &M University. As watershed folks say, “Everyone is downstream from someone else.” We might not like to think about it, but the motor oil, household trash, old recliner, tires, dead dogs, and other unmentionable objects thrown into our creeks do affect our drinking water, and the habitat of wild creatures.
The Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at the state level are responsible for monitoring and regulating under the laws passed by each entity. If you are familiar with our recent industrial fire and the aftermath, you have seen these two agencies at work here in Waxahachie.
Many kinds of pollution pose a threat to our water supply. These are broken down into two categories; point source pollution, and non-point source pollution. Some examples of point source pollution could be chemical discharge from a factory, animal waste from a dairy or feedlot, waste from a mining operation, discharge from a slaughter house, or waste water from a sewer treatment plant. In each of these instances, the source of the pollution is easily detected and probably monitored by the regulating agency. Non-point source pollution by definition is not being monitored. It would be difficult to monitor even if there were enough dollars and people to do it. Some of these sources come from individuals living in homes and apartments near you. Pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides may be improperly applied and allowed to run off with storm water. Storm water runs into storm drains and eventually into a creek or stream that flows into a river or lake. It is not treated at the water treatment plant as many people mistakenly believe. Pet waste left in yards can contribute to bacterial contamination of storm water. Litter, especially plastic bags and Styrofoam cups, washes into our waterways, spoiling the landscape and endangering fish, turtles and other creatures who may become tangled in it or swallow it. Old tires, grocery carts, furniture, appliances and other manmade items regularly end up in our waterways. Neither the state nor federal government has the resources to clean up these places. We may complain about point source pollution because it gets the media’s attention for a while, but we should be complaining about non-point source pollution because it is just as harmful.
What is the solution to clean up and keep our water supply clean? Citizens must take ownership of the problems in their neighborhoods and towns. Read the directions on pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. Do not apply these chemicals before a known rain event. Never pour anything such as motor oil or chemicals into a storm drain. Bag your leaves and grass clippings and take them to the convenience station at Lion’s Park if you live in Waxahachie, instead of blowing them into the street. Instruct your landscape company to do the same. Better yet, compost them and return them to your flowerbeds. Return unused chemicals, paint and other hazardous waste to the proper authorities at a Chemical Return Event, several of which are scheduled each year. Take used motor oil to your auto supply store. Take electronic equipment to electronics take-back events. Pick up trash as you drop it, and use cloth grocery sacks. As you see, it may be more work, but the environment needs your help.