There are several towns in the U.S. that have a high standard of water quality, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These towns include Aspen and Vail, Colo.; Georgetown, Texas; and Gatlinburg, Tenn. These towns, by luck and by design, are well situated within healthy watersheds that have a low possibility of becoming polluted.
There are a number of important factors involved in the creation of clean, healthy drinking water. First of all, water supplies come from underground (as in aquifers), lakes, rivers, and sometimes desalinated sea water. Water is purified and disinfected with chlorine. Then the treated water flows either by pipes or gravity to reservoirs or water tanks. Once the water goes down the drain and into a sewer system, it is treated and released back into a body of water or is used for agricultural or industrial purposes.
To have a reliable and continuous source of clean water, free of disease pathogens, municipalities need to have certain standards in place. As a consumer, it is up to you to support efforts to protect your local water supply.
Here are eight of the primary ways clean water supplies can be achieved:
1. Monitoring the water supply: Local environmental staff should be policing and inspecting watersheds on a regular basis. Environmental staff can include police, inspectors, laboratory technicians, lake crews, and foresters who work together to ensure the safety and quality of the ground water.
2. Your local land use commissioners, such as zoning and planning boards, should be carefully reviewing any applications that could affect water supplies: For example, while you may want to have a big box store built in your town, care must be taken to protect wetlands and aquifers. Large expanses of impermeable surfaces (parking lots) divert stormwater in ways that can potentially harm nearby water supplies. In addition, gasoline, oils, and other chemicals may also be washed into the water supply.
3. Stormwater treatment systems: Developers should always submit (to land commission boards) detailed stormwater treatment systems to minimize any potential harm to water supplies.
4. The creation of man-made wetlands: It often helps to support water supplies when wetlands must be diverted or removed, but it is important to remember that man-made wetlands can rarely do the job that natural wetlands do.
5. Buying and protecting watershed lands: The more protected land you have, the greater your town’s ability to have a healthy water supply.
6. No dumping into storm drains. Material that enters storm drains ends up directly in the watershed.
7. Proper disposal of household hazardous waste and medications: While wastewater treatment plants continue to become more sophisticated, but it is currently impossible to filter out all chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Down the line, these chemicals and pharmaceuticals will end up to varying degrees in your drinking supply. Cities and towns that support proper disposal of chemicals and educational efforts for its residents usually will have a healthier water supply. (Learn how to properly dispose of paint and medication.)
8. Maintenance of native vegetation along-side streams and wetlands: The vegetation acts as a natural buffer, reducing pollutants and preventing erosion.
Keep in mind that you are a big part of whether your city or town has a clean and abundant water supply. Increased awareness, education and participation in your local government are the keys.