Whether you live in California where the drought is said to be the worst in 1,200 years, or Boston where the all-time snowiest winter is about to melt into the muddiest spring, the importance of water has never been more clear. With increasing population and climate change, protecting our water is becoming ever more important.
Treated wastewater is being discharged into streams that supply drinking water, and small amounts of many chemical contaminants slip through even the most sophisticated treatment processes.
But there are simple things we can all do, and teach our children about, so the next generation will have clean, healthy water. This is paramount to giving our children a healthy future. We can give them organic food and avoid BPA, but our bodies are 60% water. They need clean water to be healthy.
1. Teach your children where their water comes from.
When your child turns the tap in the kitchen sink, where does that water flow from? If you live in a small town, likely from a well in your yard. In a city, probably from a reservoir out of the city limits. Either way, it comes from rainwater that runs into streams, lakes, and rivers, or is absorbed into deep groundwater wells, but with modern plumbing your child will not make this connection on their own.
2. Stop using chemicals on your yard and garden and keep track of the butterflies and birds that visit.
Lawn and garden chemicals kill about 72 million birds a year according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are not good for us, either. These chemicals wash with the rain into our drinking water, so protecting the butterflies will protect your child.
3. Take your child fishing.
If your child loves fishing they will always value keeping streams healthy and clean to protect fish. We ingest pesticides that have run into the water when we eat fish, so protecting the fish protects your child, too.
4. Get a rain barrel.
Rain barrels store water if you are in a drought. They also help prevent flooding. When streets flood, water from storm water drains joins sewage treatment plants in many communities. If they are overwhelmed untreated sewage is discharged into the waterways. Show your child how the water rolls off your roof into the rain barrel during a storm.
5. Plant a rain garden
A rain garden is just plants that like water, planted in an indentation where water that would otherwise run down a slope is caught. The plants absorb and filter the water, keeping streams cleaner and will also preventing flooding.
Go into your yard with your child during a rainstorm and look at how the water flows, and where it goes. If there is an area with lots of water flowing, that would be a good place to put a rain garden. Use native plants in your rain garden so that pollinators and birds get a boost from it, too.
6. Plant a tree with your child.
Trees capture and filter water, keeping our streams cleaner. Consider planting an oak that birds, chipmunks, and insects will get food and shelter from. Shagbark hickory has loose shaggy bark that bats can live under. If bats find a home in your yard they will help keep the mosquitoes in check naturally.
7. Do you have ponds, streams, or springtime pools in your yard?
If you do, look for frogs and salamanders with your child. Teach them that these creatures are delicate, and can’t tolerate pollution from our yards.
Is there tall grass, native shrubs, or wildflowers next to the waterway? If not consider planting some so these creatures will have a better home. The plants also filter rainwater, keeping the stream cleaner.
8. Dispose of drugs and paints safely.
Explain to your child that what goes down the drain eventually winds up in the drinking water. Human waste is treated, so it isn’t harmful, but small amounts of paints, chemicals and drugs will get through treatment.
If your police department has a drug take-back program that is an easy and safe way to dispose of pharmaceuticals. Take your child with you, so they understand. If not, your town likely has a household materials collection program.