Tips to Protect Your Watershed
A watershed is an important ecological structure that drains or “sheds” water from an area of land into a body of water such as a river, lake, stream, or ocean. Watersheds, also known as drainage basins, describe the entire area from a stormwater drain into a body of water. It’s typically sloped so that gravity naturally guides water and snow down into the specific waterbody.
These natural and constructed areas help humans, plants, and animals get access to the water we all need to survive. But without careful action and proactive protection, our local watersheds can become compromised by pollution and overconsumption. That’s why it’s important to implement even the simplest measures to maintain and protect our local watersheds.
In our latest blog, our experts from Indiana American Water provide you with tips and tricks for efficient watershed protection, as well as some steps to take to minimize your negative impact on your local watershed.
7 Ways to Protect Your Local Watershed
1. Conserve Water (drinking water)
A great first step to take in protecting your local watershed is to ensure that your home is not using more water than is necessary. From drinking water to cleaning water, there are many ways you can ensure you are not overusing water in your Indiana home.
Common ways to conserve water include:
- Install low-flow shower heads
- Fix leaky faucets and fixtures
- Turn off the water when not in use
- Take shorter showers
While limiting excessive water usage can help protect your watershed, it also boasts the added benefit of lower water bills. Your family can implement similar techniques to conserve energy across the board in your home, reducing your energy bills and putting sustainability at the forefront of your daily life.
2. Create Fewer Automobile Emissions
The typical vehicle will produce 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases and emissions created by automobiles, can negatively impact water quality and present dangers to any aquatic life that utilizes the polluted water.
When you drive your car, these toxic chemicals are spread in the air and on the ground around them. Eventually, many will end up flowing into your storm drains, down a watershed, and into a natural water body.
If you’re physically able, you have access to other non-automotive transportation methods, and your destination is within a plausible distance, consider walking, biking, or using public transit options instead of driving your car. You’ll directly influence the number of pollutants that enter local waterways through your watershed.
3. Properly Dispose of Chemicals
There are a number of reasons why you should never dump harmful chemicals down your drains – both in your home and outside in your storm drains. The improper disposal of chemicals compromises healthy rivers, leading to increased water pollution, and a decrease in safe water for plants, and aquatic life.
The health of you and your family can also be negatively affected by improper chemical disposal. The resulting increase in water pollution can lead to water shortages and other severe long-term water access and health issues.
Carefully Manage Pet Waste
Domestic animal waste contains nutrients and pathogens which are two direct types of water pollutants. Local waters that are contaminated with pet waste can experience excessive growth of algae and weeds, which makes the water murky, green, smelly, and unusable for swimming, boating, and fishing if left unchecked.
Disposing of pet waste properly in your garbage is one simple way to help promote healthy watersheds.
Utilize a Rain Barrel or Plant a Rain Garden
Watering your lawn or plants can use thousands of gallons of water each week. Alternatively, collecting rain and redistributing the water to your household plants can help minimize your water usage and the impact on your local watershed. When you use rain barrels to collect water, you’ll lower your water bill and have a large stock of water saved up in the extended absence of rainfall.
One of the most important benefits of a rain barrel is the reduction of stormwater runoff. When rain is not collected, it flows across lawns and roads, picking up pollutants as it goes and carrying them through storm drains, to the watershed, and ultimately into local waterways.
A rain garden is another method of reducing runoff and pollutants in local bodies of water. A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape thst collects rain water from a roof, driveway, or street, allowing it to soak into the ground. Planting native grasses and flowering perennials in a rain garden can be a cost effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property.
Enhance Vegetation in Your Yard
Trees and ground vegetation in forest ecosystems help slow water movement and stabilize soil to prevent soil erosion. This natural buffer for soil erosion helps reduce sedimentation-type pollution in local water bodies from the watershed.
When you add native plants to your yard, you’re protecting more than your local ecosystem. You’ll prevent a host of negative effects of social erosion including:
- The loss of fertile land
- Increased pollution and sedimentation in streams & rivers
- Clogs in local waterways
- Declines in fish and other aquatic life populations
- Increased flooding.
Carefully Wash Your Car
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash their car at home. On the other hand, a commercial car wash’s entire cleaning process uses 60 percent less water for one car than a simple at-home wash.
Choosing to wash your car at a professional car wash is an easy way to help conserve water at home. But how you wash your car also plays a crucial role in how you impact your local watershed.
When you wash your car on the street or in your driveway, that dirty water filled with natural and chemical cleaning contaminants, such as soap, detergents, gasoline, and motor oils flows into lakes, rivers, and streams from your drains. The pollutants resulting from at-home car washing result in lower water quality and can be detrimental to aquatic habitats. Phosphates from soap can cause toxic and excessive algae growth that smells bad, looks bad, and eventually eliminates oxygen from the water, which rapidly kills off aquatic life in the water body.
If you have to wash your car at home or on the street, there are a few simple ways you can make the process safer for your watershed.
- Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners
- Minimize water usage with a flow-restricted spray gun
- Wash in an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass, rather than draining into a storm drain
- Avoid washing cars on concrete or asphalt pavement.
- Empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets
Why Should You Protect Your Watershed?
Watershed protection isn’t about one specific aspect of the environment – it is about protecting our entire land and aquatic ecosystems so we can continue to enjoy a thriving, healthy natural environment and access to clean, safe natural water resources.
From creating wildlife habitat areas to providing water to our homes, watersheds are responsible for supporting a lot of different ecosystems. Without healthy local watersheds, people, fish, and other wildlife would lack access to safe water.
When you take part in watershed protection tactics, you are making your local environment safer for you, your family, and your pets. Get peace of mind that you will always have access to fresh water and protect rivers, and enjoy lower water bills as a result.
Contact Indiana American Water for More Information
These simple steps can protect your local watershed and have a positive impact that lasts for years to come. But these tips are only the beginning. For more watershed conservation information, contact Indiana American Water or visit us online. We’re proud to offer Indiana homeowners all the information they need to improve their conservation efforts and reduce their impact on the local watershed, without sacrificing their family’s routines and comfort in their Indiana home.