Simple day-to-day activities such as taking a shower, brushing our teeth, cooking, washing our car, or even turning on a light switch do not just start and end in our homes, but have a direct effect on the health of the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Learn what you can do to help the Reservoir.
Maintain Your Septic System
If your home has a septic system, it’s important that you don’t ignore your system and put it "out of sight, out of mind." Doing so can cost you money, as well as affect the health of your family, community and environment. Follow these simple tips to keep it working properly and avoid polluting the Reservoir.
- Have your septic system pumped out every three to five years.
- Be careful not to flush or pour down the drain anything that will kill the bacteria living in your septic tank. Healthy colonies of bacteria are necessary for the process that treats wastewater and reduces the amount of nutrients that seep into groundwater.
- Reduce your use of garbage disposals, as they contribute unnecessary solids and grease to your septic system. Try creating a compost pile instead.
- Do not use toilets as trash cans.
- Keep heavy vehicles away from your septic system.
- Do not plant trees or shrubs near your drain field. Roots can clog septic drain lines.
- Distribute your laundry chores throughout the week to avoid overloading your septic system on a particular day.
The more water we use, the more that is dumped into our septic systems and sewage treatment plants, requiring more energy use and costly upgrades over time. Fortunately, there are many simple ways you can help conserve this precious resource around your home.
- Fix leaky toilets and faucets. A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water per day, while a leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons per day.
- Take shorter showers. Cutting your shower time by five minutes can save 10 to 12 gallons of water per shower. That's a potential savings of up to 4,380 gallons per year!
- Turn off water while you shave, brush your teeth or wash dishes.
- Install water-saving devices, such as low-flow showerheads and toilet dams.
- Put a bucket in the shower or sink to catch water as it “warms up.” Use this extra water to water your plants or fill up pet bowls.
- Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
Reduce Energy Consumption
Reducing your electricity use will also reduce the amount of energy that needs to be generated by fossil fuel power plants. This will, in turn, reduce the amount of nutrients and chemical contaminants that can enter our Reservoir, rivers and streams.
Try these ideas to save electricity — and money!
- Turn off lights, TVs, stereos and computers (including monitors) when not in use.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use fewer watts and last longer.
- Only run dishwashers, washing machines and dryers when they are full.
- Use fans instead of air conditioning when temperatures are not too hot.
- Invest in energy-efficient appliances, such as Energy Star qualified products.
- Instead of using an electric dryer, hang your clothes and sheets outside to dry.
- Make sure your house is weatherized and insulated properly to avoid heat escaping in the winter.
- Unplug cell phone chargers and similar devices when not in use.
Reduce and Properly dispose of Hazardous Waste
Household hazardous wastes (HHW) include paints, cleaners, batteries, motor oil, nail polish, weed killers and drain treatments. Most of us have 50 to 100 pounds of HHW in our homes. While some products are essential to our everyday lives, HHW contain chemicals that are potentially harmful to both people and the environment.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the amount of these toxins in your home — and in the Reservoir.
- Become familiar with products in your home, garage and shed that may contain hazardous or toxic substances.
- Follow the directions on the label so you use only what's needed. Twice as much doesn't mean twice the results!
Whether it is motor oil or paint thinner, make an effort to follow the safe (and legal) means of disposal (Never throw HHW down a drain, into the trash or onto your lawn or driveway!)
- Discover non-toxic alternatives to HHW. Using items you probably already have, such as baking soda, lemon juice and corn starch. Also, many companies offer non-toxic, all-natural and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
- Switch from disposable batteries to rechargeable batteries, which can be used again and again.
Limit Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers
While many of us think spring is the best time to start fertilizing our lawns, fall is actually the time of year when cool season grasses benefit most from fertilization. Heavy spring rains wash fertilizers off our lawns and into local waterways, where they can fuel the growth of algae, causing algal blooms, that can be detrimental to fish.
When you do fertilize, follow these tips to help protect the Reservoir:
- Have your soil tested to determine how much fertilizer your lawn actually needs (if any at all) and the best time to apply it. Also, identifying your grass will help you understand how to properly care for it.
- Follow manufacturer guidelines and only apply the amount of fertilizer that you need. Twice the product will not make your lawn twice as green!
- Keep fertilizer off hard surfaces like walkways, driveways and streets, where it will easily wash into storm drains and streams. If fertilizer falls on these hard surfaces, sweep it onto the lawn or scoop it up for later use.
- Do not apply fertilizer to swales or other drainage areas on your lawn.
- Never apply fertilizer to dormant lawns or on frozen ground.
- Consider organic fertilizers which typically release nutrients more slowly than synthetic fertilizers.
- Try to control products that use safer, non-toxic ingredients. Many are just as effective as their toxic counterparts.
- If you must use pesticides with toxic ingredients, never buy or use more than you need and take care in their storage and disposal.
Most of the pollution to the Reservoir and its tributaries comes from runoff: water that washes pollutants off the land and into storm drains and local water bodies. You can help reduce polluted runoff from your property by:
- Picking up after your pet, whether in your yard, on the sidewalk or in a park. It's a dirty job, but pet waste can contribute nutrients and bacteria to local water bodies, many of which provide drinking water to local communities.
- Fixing car leaks so engine fluids like oil and antifreeze don't run onto the ground and into storm drains.
- Washing your car on grass or gravel, rather than on pavement. The grass or gravel will absorb and filter soapy, grimy water, rather than allowing it to runoff your driveway into the nearest stream or storm drain.
- Planting a buffer or "fence" of trees and shrubs that will absorb water before it runs off your property.
- Installing rain barrels to catch gutter water that runs off your roof. This water can then be used to water plants and gardens.
Participate in your community’s recycling program
Community recycling programs play an essential part in educating residents about the importance of recycling and its environmental benefits. Take a look at the information below:
Not only are trees beautiful, but they provide many environmental benefits, including:
- Reducing soil erosion and controlling runoff from your yard.
- Providing beneficial habitat and food for backyard birds, butterflies and animals.
- Cleaning drinking water by filtering polluted runoff.
- Cleaning and cooling our air and returning pure oxygen to the atmosphere.
- Buffering noise.