Waterwise Wednesday: National Water Quality Month

Photo © Jinfeng Zhang

August is National Water Quality Month when we focus on protecting fresh water sources. Protect water quality from pollution of the top six surface water pollutants:

• Vehicles: Fix leaks right away to prevent fluids from seeping into the ground.

• Petwaste: Pick up and properly dispose in the trash or toilet. Animal waste contains nitrogen which can remove oxygen from the water as it degrades, harming aquatic life.

• Yardwaste: Sweep clippings out back on the lawn. Yardwaste can clog storm sewer systems.

• Fertilizer: Use only when necessary and according to the directions. Heavy rainfall or watering can cause these chemicals to leak into groundwater sources. Try using organic fertilizers like compost or mulch instead of commerical fertilizer.

• Sediment: Avoid paving your properties which creates more runoff. Plant native trees and plants to hold soil in place and infiltrate water. Reuse clippings as mulch or compost to protect exposed soil.

• Litter: Reduce, reuse, and recycle to lessen waste. Get trash in the trash can and recycle plastics.

Waterwise Wednesday: Holding Water with Healthy Soil

Hand holding a small plant and stream of water

Water less and boost plant health with healthy soil. Pores in healthy soil increase the water holding power and nutrient access for root systems too, which not only help plant growth but also prevent erosion, soil pollution, and further increase water retention.

Save water and Increase soil water retention with these tips:

– Avoid compaction with heavy equipment to preserve porous spaces in the soil.

– Add compost to your soil to improve its ability filter water more effectively during heavy rain and retain more moisture for plants during drought.

– Use drip irrigation to water plants’ directly above the roots and minimize evaporation.

– Place plants close enough to shade areas of bare soil between them to save water and resulting in fewer weeds. To retain moisture in the soil between plants that need wide spacing, try a weed barrier like mulch, or under sow a ground cover that won’t grow tall and compete.

Photo © Ongap

Waterwise Wednesday: Wildflowers and Water Quality

This week we celebration Nebraska Wildflower Week and all the benefits wildflowers provide for our environment, including clean water.

– Wildflower’s extensive and deep root systems slow down runoff, reduce soil erosion, and absorb dirty water before it gets into the nearby waterways.

– Wildflowers provide critical habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects, and wildlife.

– Wildflowers are native to where they grow, conditioned to thrive there. That means they use less water and fertilizer, resist disease and are more tolerant to pests.

Photo © creativecommonsstockphotos

Waterwise Wednesday: World Water Day

Most of us take water service for granted – a quick turn of the tap provides clean drinkable water and drains take dirty water to the treatment plant to be cleaned.

Monday, March 22, was World Water Day, dedicated to water related issues like access to clean water, drinking water, sanitation and sustainability.

World Water Day 2021

Waterwise Wednesday: Clean Gutters, Clean Water

Photo © Publicdomainphotos

Annually, more than 50% of phosphorus in our surface waters comes from leaves in the street according to a 2016 study by the United States Geological Survey, making leaves one of the largest sources of urban phosphorus pollution.

As rain falls and flows through leaves, phosphorus leaches out much like a tea bag in water. This “leaf tea” flows through our storm sewer system to the North Platte River.

Too much phosphorus causes large and potentially dangerous algae blooms that can block sunlight for aquatic plants, clog the gills of fish, reduce levels of dissolved oxygen, and produce toxins that are harmful if ingested. It only takes one pound of phosphorus to produce 500 pounds of algae (Vallentyne 1974).

Removing leaves from the street before it rains can reduce the amount of phosphorus in urban stormwater by 80% compared to no leaf removal (USGS 2016).

Protect your waters, by sweeping leaves back onto the lawn or garden as mulch, composting them, or putting them into the City’s yardwaste container.

Waterwise Wednesday: National Rivers Month

North Platte River at Scottsbluff July 2019 by L. Sato

We celebrate U.S. rivers and their benefits throughout June.
– Like the Missouri River, the country’s longest at 2,500 miles
– the Mississippi River, the widest, 11 miles across at one point in Minnesota.
– and Nebraska’s 79,056 miles of river

One out of every three people gets their drinking water from a river or stream in the United States. And nationally we spend about $97 billion annually on river-related recreation and tourism.

Drinking water and recreation are two reasons to protect water quality by picking up after your pet, using fertilizers sparingly, and properly disposing of trash.

Waterwise Wednesday: Hazardous Household Cleaners

Photo © Johanna Goodyear

Household cleaners we use to sanitize, degrease, whiten and wash can also harm water. The “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)” – Phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia are common ingredients in cleansers.

Phosphorus composes 30 to 40 percent of dishwasher detergents. Ammonia is included in products for degreasing, sanitizing and removing allergens. Nitrogen is found in glass cleaners, surface cleaning products, and floor cleaners.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia cannot be removed by waste treatment processes. Instead they enter waterways, build up and cause accelerated and excessive growth of some types of plant life including algae. The dense vegetation clogs waterways, crowds out animal life and other marine plants.

The large amount of plant material also depletes oxygen in the water as it decays. The lack of oxygen in water suffocates freshwater marine life, further degrading the water with decay.

Choose, or make, cleansers free of VOCs. So when you clean your home, your water stays clean too.

Waterwise Wednesday: The Call to All

There’s no one big solution to preserve water, but in fact a multitude of strategies utilizing the time and talents of many different people. For example,

– Municipalities and water utilities provide basic safe water and sanitation

-Researchers, Inventors, and Innovators continue to develop advanced water treatment and reuse systems for gray water and stormwater

-Engineers are making desalination more efficient

-Ag research and irrigation specialists improve plant and irrigation efficiency to grow more food with far less water

-Policymakers protect natural ecosystems and guarantee water for the environment

-Businesses designing and producing more efficient water-using appliances with less water use in the production process

-Builders and advocates creating access to clean water and sanitation

-Tech companies working with agencies and utilities to develop smart-technology to help price, manage, and use water efficiently;

– Educators, residents, and conservationists improve our homes and institutions to manage water sustainably.

We all have a role in preserving water. What do you do?

Photo © creativecommonsstockphotos

Waterwise Wednesday: Black Water

Photo © creativecommonsstockphotos

Cities flush fire hydrants to make sure the hydrants work properly and rid the system mains of corrosion, rust, and sediment.

If faucet water is dark or discolored after a City hydrant flush simply run the tap until the water is clear again. The black sediment is naturally occurring maganese that has reacted with sodium hypochlorite that is used to protect water from contamination as it travels through the pipe system.

Waterwise Wednesday: Persistent Perchlorate


Photo © Laura Arredondo

Enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks. And please take time to carefully sweep firework launch and debris landing areas and properly dispose of the debris afterwards.

Perchlorate, a compound used as an oxidizing agent in fireworks (i.e., fuel to make the firework burn), persists in soil and water.

How persistent? Well, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial’s firework shows stopped in 2009. In a 2016 US Geological Survey high levels of perchlorate were still reported in the park – 38 micrograms in a groundwater sample and 54 micrograms/liter in a stream, both in excess of the EPA’s 15 micrograms per liter, and 274 times higher than samples taken outside the memorial park’s borders.