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Water quality is described by the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of water. Another aspect to consider is the purpose of the water. Water that is not good enough to drink can be good enough to use on the plants in the lawn.
There are several causes that can lead to declining water quality, such as sewage, runoff, pesticide usage, land use, chemicals, pathogens and even thermal pollution.
To asses water quality. several factors are used. The most important ones are pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates and phosphates, turbidity, and even the presence of certain organisms. Shrimp, for example, are very sensitive to pollution, so if you see shrimp swimming around, the water quality will probably be quite good (but not necessarily good enough to drink).
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Improving Water Quality in Communities
Groundwater supplies about 99 percent of the easily available freshwater worldwide. In the United States, roughly 97 percent of the drinking water in rural areas is groundwater. It is obvious that striving for and maintaining a high quality standard for groundwater is an important factor in improving general water quality. This can be done by controlling the use of herbicides, pesticides, and manure, by making sure that groundwater is not contaminated through leaking septic systems or storage tanks, and by reducing the dumping of waste and toxic compounds.
Protecting watersheds is another way to improve water quality in communities. Watersheds are areas where all land drains to a particular body of water. So, it is important to realize that all pollution will assemble here. Managing these areas properly and understanding how a common geographical region drains in a watershed can help in avoiding pollution and improving water quality.
A third method is wastewater treatment, a relatively modern practice. All the wastewater of a community is conveyed to a public wastewater treatment plant. Treatment plants are normally operated 24 hours and speed up the process through which water is cleaned naturally.
Planting ‘rain gardens’ and trees is the final method that will be discussed here. Rain gardens are gardens of specifically chosen native plants that are placed in the right place to prevent excessive polluted runoff. The runoff will no longer flow to the streams and lakes but will be buffered by these gardens and trees that will act as a sponge and absorb the water and pollutants.
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What Can You Do?
- Use environmentally friendly household products whenever possible and dispose them correctly.
- To avoid problems at the wastewater treatment plant, don’t just flush anything through the toilet.
- Use a pet waste bag to pick up your pet’s waste.
- Try to keep fat, oil and grease out of the sewer, since it can stick to the inside of the pipes and clog up the whole system.
- Keep your pavement clean, so that the runoff doesn’t pick up too many hazardous materials.
- Make your own 'rain garden'
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Clean Drinking Water
As of 2008, these were the top 10 cities in the United States with clean drinking water:
10. Tulsa, Oklahoma
9. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
8. Tampa, Florida
7. Las Vegas, Nevada
6. Boise City, Idaho
5. Birmingham, Alabama
4. Miami, Florida
3. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
2. Austin, Texas
1. Des Moines, Iowa
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What It Means to You
So, how is improving water quality in communities accomplished? First, don't forget about the groundwater, as it represents a large portion of the water that is used. Next, protect the watershed, since this is where pollution can accumulate. Furthermore, recognize the importance of a well-developed wastewater treatment plant and last, consider 'rain gardens', which can be both beautiful and useful. Remember that you can help by simply considering some basic and easy-to-perform tips.
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Rain Gardens: http://clean-water.uwex.edu/pubs/pdf/home.gardens.pdf
USGS Science for a Changing World: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/waterquality.html
Water Environment Federation: http://www.wef.org/factsheets/?ekmensel=c57dfa7b_53_0_137_1
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/en/