Seven simple steps to clean water

Southeast Michigan Partners for Clean Water through Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) developed these simple guidelines to assist residents in protecting their local water resources.

Estimates are that a person can live four to six weeks without food, but would probably not last a week without water. Earth is a closed system – this means every drop of water on Earth is all we’ve ever had and all we ever will have. That‘s why it’s so important to protect our water supplies whether it’s surface water, groundwater and even glaciers!

Most people don’t know where to start in changing habits to prevent pollution from getting into ditches, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The Seven Simple Steps to Clean Water program outlines easy actions that will have big impacts on protecting water resources.

  1. Help keep pollution out of storm drains
    Storm drains drain into lakes and rivers. Any waste, such as car wash water, pet feces or leaves, that ends up in a storm drain will move directly to the nearest surface water. Remember the saying, “Only rain in the drain!”
  2. Fertilize caringly
    Fertilizers contain chemicals designed to make grass or plants grow. While it is good for these plants, it’s not good for our water. It also helps aquatic plants to grow, including algae. To prevent this, use a no phosphorus fertilizer high in water-insoluble nitrogen in the correct application rate. If any spills onto any pavement, sweep it back onto the lawn or sweep it up to reuse.
  3. Carefully store and dispose of household cleaners, chemicals and oil
    Many household products used routinely are hazardous. These include antifreeze, gasoline, motor oil, household cleaners, paint and solvents. Any of these can contaminate local water sources and kill wildlife. Rather than put any chemical into the trash where it could spill and get into our water, give them away to family or friends or take them to a hazardous waste collection program.
  4. Clean up after your pet
    Pet waste contains bacteria. If left on the grass or sidewalk, it can be transported through rain or snow melt to storm drains where it will end up in the nearest river or stream. To dispose of pet waste, collect it and flush it down the toilet.
  5. Practice good car care
    Just four quarts of oil can form an eight-acre slick on a river or lake. It doesn’t take a very large leak by a lot of cars to result in a lot of pollution. Check for leaks regularly. Make repairs as soon as possible. This will protect our water resources and keep your car in better running condition for longer use. When washing your car, choose either a car wash or wash it on the lawn so the water will soak into the ground. This will clean the waste water before it reaches groundwater and it won’t harm your lawn.
  6. Choose earth-friendly landscaping
    Choose native plants. Native plants are acclimated to the climate and are drought and disease tolerant. Use mulch around tress and shrubs. Mow your lawn high to prevent weeds and hold moisture. Water only when necessary, usually once or twice a week. Use pesticides sparingly.
  7. Save water
    Each person uses approximately 77 gallons of water daily. Fix leaks in and outside the house. Use a broom instead of the hose to clean off walks and driveways. This water will end up in the nearest storm drain. Place sprinklers so the water goes on the lawn not the sidewalk.

Adopting these seven simple steps will conserve water and protect our local water resources.

The Southeast Michigan Partners for Clean Water is a group of organizations that work on water quality issues and protecting our local resources who have joined together to multiply their efforts.

For more information on the Seven Simple Steps, visit the SEMCOG website.

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