Water is one of our most precious resources, and we depend upon it for our life. Many factors can affect our water, ranging from population growth to drought conditions. In order to ensure that enough drinking water is available to meet our present and future needs, it is important that we all do our part to protect our drinking water sources and to reduce water waste and pollution.
A clean, constant supply of drinking water is essential to everyone. Consumers living in large cities or near larger bodies of water frequently drink water that comes from surface water sources, such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Although sometimes these sources are close to the community, many drinking water suppliers have miles of pipe underground to transport water from the nearest lake.
The land area over which water flows to reach the river, lake, or reservoir from which your drinking water is drawn is called the watershed. It is important for consumers to keep in mind that any pollution or contamination to the watershed area will ultimately affect the quality of your water supply as well.
In rural areas or areas from which no surface water supplies can be tapped for drinking water, people are more likely to drink ground water that was pumped from a well. These wells tap into aquifers - the natural reservoirs under the earth's surface - that may be only a few miles wide, or may span the borders of many states. As with surface water, it is important to remember that activities many miles away from you may affect the quality of ground water supply.
Consumers can help to protect the integrity of their water supply by carefully managing the activities in, near, or above the water source.
Consumers who obtain water from a public water supply can obtain information about the quality of their drinking water supply and the source of their community's water from the local water department. Since 1999, the EPA has required communities to prepare an annual report for their customers detailing the source of the water, the treatment the water receives at the local water plant, and a summary of the water quality test results from the previous calendar year.
If you haven't seen a copy of your community's annual water quality reports, call the water department and request that they send you a copy of the most recent report. This free report is a great way to become familiar with the water quality in your community.
Even if your water supply comes from a municipal source, it is still important for consumers to protect the watershed area around the source of their local drinking water supply. Some tips for users of public water supplies are:
Before you buy a home with a private well, it is a good idea to have the well water tested. The well water supply should be checked for bacteria as well as any other contaminants common to the area. If you are unsure what contaminants to test for, talk to the local public health department or county extension office to see if they have any general information on water quality in the area. Contaminants that can be found in well water include pesticides, nitrates, arsenic, bacteria, and radon, but there could be others as well.
For households using a private well as their drinking water source, it is important that they keep a careful watch on the activities around their well area and keep contaminants away from the well itself.
Here are some tips you can follow to protect your well water source: