START WITH THE 3R'S :
1) REDUCE POLLUTANTS IN YOUR WASTE
- DISPOSE OF MEDICATIONS AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS PROPERLY-
Toxins and unwanted pharmaceutical should not go down the drain
-MAINTAIN A HEALTHY SEPTIC SYSTEM
2) RECONSIDER LAWN AND GARDEN PRACTICES
-DECREASE, OR ELIMINATE FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES
-PLANT NATIVE SPECIES
- CREATE RAIN OR BUFFER STRIPS TO REDIRECT STORM WATER FROM STORM DRAINS AND WATERWAYS
3) RAISE YOUR VOICE TO PROTECT OPEN SPACE
Keep your septic system working properly. The State of Massachusetts recommends pumping every 3 years.
( For guide click here Septic Systems )
Estimated Number of Years Between Septic Tank Pumpings
Note: More frequent pumping is needed if a garbage disposal is used. Source: Adapted from Karen Mancl, Septic Tank Maintenance, Publication AEX-740,
Number of People in your Household
Size of Tank (Gallons)
|500||6 yrs.||3 yrs.||2 yrs.||1 yrs.||1 yrs.||X|
|1,000||12 yrs.||6 yrs.||4 yrs.||3 yrs.||2 yrs.||2 yrs.|
|1,500||19 yrs.||9 yrs.||6 yrs.||4 yrs.||3 yrs.||3 yrs.|
|2,000||25 yrs.||12 yrs.||8 yrs.||6 yrs.||5 yrs.|
Try limiting, or eliminating your lawn and replace it with native plantings.
Cape Cod soils limit turf growth and make maintaining a lush green lawn expensive, while creating a pollution source. Instead of a lawn, you can have a beautiful native garden that saves time and money, increases your property values, and protects your drinking water.
Greenscaping is a compliation of landscape practices that drastically reduce water usage and encourage groundwater recharge, protect our water supply and reduce stormwater pollution
Property owners and businesses can reduce your contribution to water pollution and save money by cutting back on the need for irrigation water ( drinking water), using native plant as filters in buffers and rain gardens, and significantly reducing toxic chemical and nutrients from entering ground water. Click here for greenscape presentation or guide
A bill signed into law recently by Governor Patrick will help to reduce the amount of phosphorus in fertilizers, and ultimately result in healthier rivers, ponds and coastal embayments. The new law requires the Department of Agricultural Resources, with MassDEP's assistance, to promulgate regulations by Jan. 1, 2014 that will limit the amount of nutrient pollution, mainly phosphorus from fertilizers.
The problem occurs when fertilizers are placed on lawns and other parcels. When it rains or when the snow melts, the runoff picks up pollutants as it travels across the land. Eventually, this stormwater runoff is carried into the nearest body of water. There, nutrients help to produce algae, contributing to problematic algae blooms and the declining health of lakes, rivers and bays.
The U.S. EPA has ordered municipalities, treatment plants, businesses and other wastewater producers to cut the amount of phosphorus being discharged in stormwater. The EPA is expected to issue more stringent permits that will require communities to cut their phosphorus discharges by up to 55 percent. This could result in cities and towns being required to build stormwater treatment facilities that could cost millions of dollars. The reduction of phosphorus in fertilizers sold in Massachusetts will help to address the problem, reducing the pollution in runoff waters, and lessening the need for expensive treatment works.
Runoff Ramblings: I Flush, Therefore I Waste
by David Hirschman and Karen Cappiella-
Last year, the Rambler explored the topic of the integration, or lack thereof, of the water supply, wastewater and stormwater management sectors and their disconnection from the watershed scale (Water Supply, Wastewater & Stormwater: Are These Cousins Kissing or Feuding?). In the Fall 2011 issue of Runoff Rundown, we continue on this thread by focusing on a specific question related to this potential integration: could we be using our potable water more efficiently, and how would that make our jobs as watershed, stormwater, and utility managers different, easier, and/or more effective?
The short answer to the first part of this question is (or certainly should be) YES! It takes a lot of technical know-how, sophistication, and money to collect, treat, store, and distribute potable water supplies. Yet, we tend to actually drink a very small proportion of that painstakingly supplied water.
What do we do with nearly 60% of the precious potable supply delivered to our homes? We spray it outdoors to keep our lawns green and landscapes growing, accounting for more than 7 billion gallons per day collectively. Of the remaining 40% or so that we DO use indoors, over one-quarter of the supply is used TO FLUSH TOILETS and an additional one-fifth TO WASH CLOTHES! In fact, just over 17% of indoor use is used at the faucet or dishwasher. If you throw in baths and showers, it brings the percentage of indoor use to just over 35%. See the following graphic from Mayer et al. (1999) for a nice pie-chart break-down.
In the energy and water supply fields, there is lot made out of the difference between "conservation" and "efficiency." Conservation implies some sense of doing without or sacrifice, while efficiency implies getting the same level of output by using fewer resources as inputs. Both conservation and efficiency are critical elements for managing water supplies. However, our water infrastructure was largely constructed during an era where our cities were growing and water availability was not a limiting factor. Therefore, it made a lot of sense to construct one-size-fits-all infrastructure to collect, treat, and store water, and distribute it to individual homes and businesses for whatever purposes they deemed fit. Now that we have inherited this type of infrastructure, it would be a very slow, incremental, and expensive prospect to separate out water systems for potable versus non-potable uses, and thus create a vastly more efficient system.
While that may seem a bit far-fetched, it becomes less so when we consider expanding our drinking water supplies. The next increment of supply is bound to be harder to find, more expensive, more difficult to protect, and more environmentally-damaging, and we may have to fight our neighbors (or neighboring cities or states) over it, not to mention face the vagaries of permitting and a complex regulatory framework.
While infrastructure separation would also be costly, it could be done incrementally as part of much needed infrastructure upgrades that - according to a new report from Green For All in partnership with American Rivers, Pacific Institute, and the Economic Policy Institute -- would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.
Maybe it makes more sense to start now with incremental separation of potable and non-potable water infrastructure. An important assumption of this "pipe dream" is that other, cheaper supplies would be available and could be harnessed to satisfy the non-potable fraction of overall usage. Candidate technologies include harvested rainwater and reclaimed or recycled water (e.g., treated wastewater), not to mention continuing to enhance the efficiency of water-using appliances and equipment. Many parts of the country have already started down this path due to constraints on existing water supplies in the face of population growth.
This brings us back to the connection between watershed and utility managers. If our potable and non-potable supplies continue to be blended together (and most of the supply is for non-potable purposes), then we will continue to expend enormous energy and resources protecting, collecting, and treating source water that isn't going to be used for drinking. In terms of alternatives, we cannot "rain barrel" our way out of this particular dilemma, but it certainly is an issue that should stimulate the creative juices of the next generation of watershed and drinking water managers. How can we use potable water supplies more efficiently by retooling our infrastructure at the scales of the municipality, neighborhood, and individual home or business? How can watershed and stormwater managers and their counterparts in the utility sector contribute in constructive ways to guide us towards that future? Let us know your thoughts and ideas on this topic. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.