“Think” theme for Groundwater Awareness Week, March 10-16

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager for watershed partnerships

Many of us never think twice about groundwater—where it comes from, how much there is, or how to protect it. We just turn on the spigot and water flows.

But maybe it’s time to think for a minute about this amazing resource that keeps us all alive, literally.

Think is the theme for this year’s National Groundwater Awareness Week (#GWAW), March 10-16. Groundwater Awareness Week is an annual observance highlighting responsible development, management, and use of groundwater. The Think theme urges each of us to consider ways we can protect this most valuable natural resource.

So Think about not running the water while you brush your teeth. Or Think about getting that leaking faucet fixed. Think about the farmers that rely on groundwater to grow the food you eat. And Think about having your well inspected to protect your drinking water system.

Here are few steps you can take to ensure your family’s health and protect our region’s groundwater:

  • Support better land use planning that will protect water and maximize economic opportunity. MCD can help communities that want to integrate water protection into their land use plans, zoning code, and subdivision regulations.

 

Did you know?

  • Approximately 132 million Americans rely on groundwater for drinking water.
  • Groundwater is used for irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and several additional purposes, making it one of the most widely used and valuable natural resources we have.
  • Americans use 79.6 billion gallons of groundwater each day. Groundwater in the Great Miami River Watershed supplied people with 6 billion gallons of water in 2016.
  • Groundwater is 20 to 30 times larger than all U.S. lakes, streams, and rivers combined.
  • 44 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply, including 2.3 million people in southwest Ohio.
  • More than 13.2 million households have their own well, representing 34 million people.

As we approach National Groundwater Awareness Week, MCD is proud to have earned the distinction of “Groundwater Protector.” The award is presented to various groups for taking steps to conserve and protect groundwater.

MCD works to protect and improve the quantity and quality of water available to people living and working within the Great Miami River Watershed. Through research, educational programs, funding, and community events, MCD’s work on water stewardship issues provides citizens with the information they need to make safe, sustainable decisions regarding their water. MCD provides insight to elected officials and community leaders, inspiring stewardship at the local, regional, and national levels. Since 1915, the Miami Conservancy District has been committed to the protection, preservation, and promotion of water and water-related causes.

MCD participates in #GWAW to raise awareness of the critical importance of groundwater to healthy communities and a thriving economy.

Please visit bit.ly/MCDstateofthewater for more facts about our groundwater.

The National Ground Water Association encourages everyone to become official “groundwater protectors” by taking steps to conserve and protect the resource. Businesses, individuals, educators, students, federal agencies, cities, associations, and everyone in between can ask to be added to NGWA’s groundwater protector list through its website or on social media. Have an awesome story to tell? Send it to NGWA and they might highlight your efforts.

A little goes a long way with septic system maintenance

By Mike Ekberg, manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” rings especially true if you have a septic system.

Consider this: It only costs about $300 every four years to maintain your septic system. But it can cost $7,000 to $10,000 or more to repair or replace it. Plus, a poorly maintained septic system can contaminate groundwater/drinking water and spread disease.

You can’t put a price on the health and safety of your family.

What is a septic system?

Septic systems are highly efficient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment systems. They are commonly found in rural areas and often consist of a septic tank and a drainfield.

You are probably on a septic system if:

  • You use well water.
  • The water line coming into your home does not have a meter.
  • Your neighbors have a septic system.

Septic Smart Week

Septic Smart Week is Sept. 17-21 and a good time to not only have your system maintained but review ways to keep your system working well.

Maintaining your septic system

Inspect and pump regularly: In general, your septic system should be inspected every one to three years and pumped every three to five years by a certified septic system professional.

Use water efficiently to avoid overloading the system: Consider using high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. When using the washing machine, be sure to select the proper load size to avoid using more water than needed.

Flush with care: Don’t flush anything besides human waste and toilet paper. Never flush:

  • Paints
  • Chemicals
  • Medications
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Dental floss

Take care at the drain:

  • Never pour cooking oil or grease down the drain.
  • Never pour oil-based paints or solvents down the drain.
  • Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal.
  • Never park or drive on your drainfield.
  • Plant trees an appropriate distance from your drainfield. A septic service professional can help you with the property distance.
  • Keep roof drains, sump pumps and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield areas. Excess water can slow or stop the wastewater treatment process.

How to care for your septic system

Information for this blogpost was taken directly from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.”

 

 

Pollution shut down Toledo’s drinking water system – could it happen here?

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager for watershed partnerships
Guest contributor

Last year, pollution in Lake Erie halted Toledo’s delivery of its drinking water to 400,000 people for several days. It happened when water that Toledo pulls from the lake was found to have dangerously high levels of microcystin, a toxin that is produced by algae. Microcystin is highly toxic to the livers of humans and animals. When nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are overabundant in lakes and river, the levels of toxin-producing algae may increase. Nutrients that contribute to algae growth come from many sources, including agriculture, lawn fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants, sewer overflows, leaking septic systems, and precipitation.

Could algal toxins shut down our water, too?
A similar scenario is less likely here because this region draws nearly all of its drinking water from the aquifer rather than a river or lake. However, an overabundance of nutrients in our watershed (the land area that drains to the Great Miami River), can lead to the growth of algae in our rivers, streams, and lakes.

algae bloom at Island Park Dam summer 2012

An algae bloom at Island Park Dam in Dayton during the summer of 2012.

An algal bloom is an abundant or excessive growth of algae. Some algal blooms do not produce toxins, but can still cause problems for aquatic life such as changes in fish population including death, and nuisance problems such as thick mats of algae that reduce access to water for  recreation.

Algal blooms are not the only problem in our water. About 40 percent of the rivers and streams in our watershed fail to meet Ohio water quality standards. Excess nutrients are a main cause. And those same nutrients negatively impact water that flows downstream to the Ohio River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

map of nutrient monitoring stations in the Great Miami River Watershed

Nutrient monitoring stations in the Great Miami River Watershed

How do we know what’s in our waterways?
The Miami Conservancy District has regularly collected data from our rivers on the levels of nutrients since 2004. The data tells us that the levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus are too high at certain times of the year. The levels change with rainfall and other seasonal conditions.

Because it is also possible that toxin-producing algae grow in our watershed, the Miami Conservancy District tested for toxins in algal blooms in the Great Miami River in 2012 and 2014. So far, no toxins were detected.

A common sense approach to reducing nutrients
Because more than 70 percent of the land in the Great Miami River Watershed is used for agriculture, the majority of nutrient-related water runoff relates to farmland use.

The Miami Conservancy District has partnered with federal, state, and local partners to create a program, called the Great Miami River Watershed Water Quality Credit Trading Program, that reduces polluted runoff from farmland. Farmers are paid to reduce nutrients from flowing into rivers and streams.

Next time: How the Great Miami River Watershed Water Quality Credit Trading Program works