Volume 5, Number 2
PROTECT OUR DRINKING WATER! |
WE ALL LIVE IN A WATERSHED! | ADD TO YOUR DRINKING WATER IQ! | LOCAL SOURCES OF FUNDS FOR WELLHEAD
PROTECTION | BMPs FOR EROSION
CONTROL | BLUE THUMB WATER LOG | WATER QUIZ
PROTECT OUR DRINKING WATER!
Every year, American families use between 50,000 and 200,000 gallons of water.
Water affects our health, our lifestyles, and our economic well being. Knowing
how to take care of this precious resource is necessary now and for future
generations. To commemorate National Drinking Water Week, May 7-13, the National
Drinking Water Alliance is recommending the following 10 key actions for citizens
to take to conserve and protect water. These household and community actions are
critical in maintaining our health and the health of our water.
- Take potentially harmful products such as used batteries, motor oil, leftover
paint, bug spray, weed killers, and some household cleaners to special collection
centers. At the same time, look for healthier alternatives to hazardous products,
because what you throw in the trash, pour down the drain or dump on the ground
can get into your water source.
- Plant low-water-use grasses and shrubs to cut your lawn watering by 20 to 50
percent. In many areas of the country, 50 to 70 percent of household water is
used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens.
- Remember to always start with cold water and heat it on the stove or in the
microwave for cooking or drinking. Lead can get into drinking water from lead
solder and pipes used in household plumbing. Because hot water picks up lead,
never use water from the hot water tap to prepare baby formula, food, or
- Replace old, inefficient water fixtures and appliances with their state-of-
the-art counterparts to save water, energy, and money. Low-flow shower heads,
toilets, and water-efficient appliances can save hundreds or even thousands of
gallons of water each year. Install low-flow fixtures and encourage your
family, friends, and coworkers to do the same.
- Spread the word on using pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and learn to
use natural methods for gardening and lawn care. Pesticides, weed killers, and
fertilizers used on home gardens and lawns can get into your drinking water
source. As rainwater passes down through the ground, it takes these chemicals
with it and can contaminate water.
- Give water a hand by supporting local, state, and national measures to
protect watersheds and groundwater. Preventing watersheds and groundwater from
becoming contaminated is healthier from the start and requires less treatment to
make water safe to drink.
- If you own a septic system or know someone who does, encourage them to have
it inspected annually and pumped out regularly. Septic tanks can leak nitrates,
bacteria, and chemicals into groundwater.
- Make a difference by joining a local group working to improve and safeguard
water quality. Concerned citizens pooling their time and talent have been known
to move industries, communities and Congress to better protect our water
- Practice environmental actions to reduce, re-use, and recycle.
Although water is most often seen as blue, it's part of the whole
green environmental effort.
- Spread the word for water every chance you get. Talking with family, friends,
and co-workers can clear up a lot. The more people know about how to conserve,
protect, and get involved with water, the better off we'll all be.
These recommended actions to conserve and protect our critical water sources are
a service of the "Blue Thumb" campaign, a national educational effort sponsored
by the National Drinking Water Alliance. The group is composed of 17 national
(American Water Works Association)
WE ALL LIVE IN A WATERSHED!
A watershed is all the land area that water flows across or under on its way to a
stream, river, or lake.
How do watersheds work?
The landscape is made up of many interconnected basins, or watersheds. Within
each watershed, all water runs to the lowest point--a stream, river, or lake. On
its way through the watershed, the water travels over the surface and across farm
fields, forest land, suburban lawns, and city streets, or it seeps into the soil
and travels as groundwater. Large watersheds like the ones for the Mississippi
River, Columbia River, and Chesapeake Bay are made up of many smaller watersheds
across several states.
Are all watersheds the same?
Not at all. Watersheds come in many different shapes and sizes and have many
different features. Watersheds can have hills or mountains or be nearly flat.
They can have farmland, rangeland, small towns, and big cities. Parts of your
watershed can be so rough, rocky, or marshy that they are suited only for certain
trees, plants, and wildlife.
Your watershed community.
Everyone lives in a watershed. You and everyone in your watershed are part of the
watershed community. The animals, birds, and fish are, too. You influence what
happens in your watershed, good or bad, by how you treat the natural
resources--the soil, water, air, plants, and animals. What happens in your small
watershed also affects the larger watershed downstream.
There are many things you and your watershed community can do to keep your
watershed healthy and productive.
Let's work together to keep our watersheds healthy. Here are some things you can
On the farm--Keep plant residue on the surface of sloping cropland.
This reduces runoff and prevents sediment, fertilizers, and pesticides from
entering streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
At home--Landscape your yard with plants that need minimal water
and fertilizer. Use only the amount of fertilizers and pesticides that plants
In your community--Protect wetlands that serve as natural buffers
against pollution, soil erosion, and flooding.
ADD TO YOUR DRINKING WATER
Every day in the United States, we drink about 110 million gallons of water. Your
health, that of your family, and the health of the nation depends on high quality
drinking water. As a special service for National Drinking Water Week, May 7-13,
the National Drinking Water Alliance is releasing 10 key facts about water that
everyone should know to be an informed and involved consumer. Knowing about water
clears up a lot.
In most communities, home water treatment devices are not needed. If considering
purchasing one, however, it's important to research what the device will remove
and maintain it scrupulously because some units can harbor disease-causing
bacteria if not properly maintained and serviced.
- Every lake, river, stream, and aquifer has its own unique water
characteristics. Each and every one of these freshwater bodies has a differenct
combination of minerals, chemicals, and nutrients.
- Pollutants, including pesticides, weed killers, and hazardous chemicals,
routinely find their way into water sources. More than 200 million pounds of
contaminants are dumped into our water resources every year. And "nonpoint
source" pollution, which is caused by pollutants washed off lawns, farms,
streets, and landfills, add additional contaminants.
- Some communities have well thought-out protection for their water sources;
others do not. Concrete, asphalt, and other urban construction near water bodies
increase water pollution significantly. Trees, grasses, and other natural buffers
reduce water pollution.
- Some water requires very simple treatment to meet drinking water standards;
other water must go through complex treatment processes. All public water
supplies using surface water sources are "disinfected" with chlorine to kill
bacteria and germs. In addition, 50 percent of groundwater systems are
disinfected. Some water, in addition, requires a 6-step process to make it fit to
- The Safe Drinking Water Act--a law passed by Congress in 1974--and amended in
1986--regulates the quality of public drinking water in the United States. Each
state enforces water regulations under the act and collects water monitoring
and test results. Some utilities perform more than 10,000 water tests a
- Water contaminants injurious to human health are of two basic types:
organisms that may cause immediate illnesses and other substances that over time
may result in more serious diseases. Some contaminants, Cryptosporidium,
Giardia, and coliform bacteria, for example, can cause short-term intestinal
illnesses in normally healthy people. Long-term consumption of some water
contaminants, such as lead, can cause nervous system disorders. And evidence
suggests that other contaminants, tri-halomethanes, for example, may cause cancer
at high doses.
- If drinking water does not meet federal standards for quality, the water
utility is required by law to notify its customers. Most violations of the Safe
Drinking Water Act are procedural and do not affect the health of consumers.
Water quality problems that can affect public health are reported immediately
through the news media and special alerts.
- Fifteen percent of the American population draw their water from private
wells and springs, which may not be regularly tested. Many state health
departments require testing; however, if you get water from a private well, you
are responsible for testing and treating the water.
- No state or federal taxes are used to operate public water utilities.
Operational expenses and utility upgrades are paid for entirely by consumers. The
average monthly water bill in the U.S. is $15, ranging from a low of $8 to a
high of more than $40. Water rates are dictated by the cost of securing water,
treating it, maintaining the treatment system, building and maintaining the
distribution system, and administrative operations.
- No single home water treatment device treats water for everything, various
technologies reduce different contaminants.
(American Water Works Association)
LOCAL SOURCES OF FUNDS FOR WELLHEAD
(This is the second in a series of articles on local approaches to procure
funding to protect groundwater.)
From a local perspective, revenues to finance wellhead protection programs can
come from the following sources:
- local taxes
- local fees
- private-sector investments
- capital financing sources
Local taxes and fees support wellhead protection programs in two ways. They can
finance operating programs on a "pay-as-you go" basis, with annual administrative
costs balanced by dedicated annual tax receipts or fee revenues. They can also
support the financing of capital projects if they are pledged to repay the
principal and interest on tax-exempt bonds or bank loans.
Designing the exact mix and timing of taxes and fees to finance wellhead
protection initiatives typically centers around concerns for equitable
cost-sharing, efficient collection of funds, and political acceptability.
Generally, managers consider five questions in selecting among available tax/fee
- Who should pay for wellhead protection?
- Will revenues be adequate for their intended uses over time?
- Will revenues be stable and predictable from year to year?
- Are the costs of administration prohibitive?
- Are incentives to change behavior as important as raising
There are four basic options to raise revenue for local groundwater protection
programs. These options include: (1) local taxes, (2) local fees, (3) private
sector investments, and (4) capital financing sources. This article will deal
with local taxes.
Option #1: Local Taxes
Both general taxes and excise taxes are options in this category.
General taxes--The principal taxes levied by most governments are
personal property taxes, ad valorem taxes (based on a property's assessed value),
sales taxes, and income taxes. Income, sales, and personal property taxes
comprise the principal sources of revenue for most state govenments. Examples of
such financing systems include the following:
- The South Florida Water Management District finances water use permits,
recharge programs, drought contingency planning, and groundwater protection, as
well as surface water controls, from an ad valorem tax.
- Suffolk County, New York, dedicates a portion of its sales tax receipts
(equal to 0.25 percent of the value of all taxable goods and services) to the
development of sewer systems and land acquisition.
- Spokane County, Washington, dedicates a portion of its sales tax receipts
(also equal to 0.25 percent of the value of taxable goods and services) to the
development of interceptor sewers and treatment facilities, monitoring programs,
and provision of services in a special protection area.
Excise taxes--While excise taxes are compulsory, they are
more limited than general taxes. They apply only to the sale or exchange of
certain commodities (goods) or services. Examples of such targeted taxes include
real estate transfer taxes; tobacco, liquor and other "sin" taxes; taxes on
hunting and fishing equipment; taxes on automotive or marine fuels; taxes on
restaurant and hotel income; and severance taxes for minerals.
Depending on the commodity or service to be taxed, an excise tax can function as
a general tax, an indirect tax on polluters, or an indirect tax on beneficiaries.
The Federal Superfund tax on petroleum and chemical feedstocks is one example of
an excise tax on polluters. The Washington State litter control tax is another.
Beneficiaries also pay excise taxes, such as those associated with public water
supply. Examples include state and local excise taxes on plumbing fixtures, lawn
sprinkling equipment, and water consumption, the latter being the most
The real estate transfer tax is a popular form of excise tax for financing
environmental programs, particularly land acquisitions. Some examples:
(Adapted from Groundwater and Public Policy, Series No. 14 by Norbert Dee
of the US-EPA.)
- Vermont recently passed legislation doubling its real estate transfer tax
to 1 percent. The revenue will be distributed to towns and regional planning
commissions to strengthen land-use planning and land acquisition, including
acquisition for wellhead protection.
- In Nantucket, Massachusetts, the proceeds of a local land transfer tax
are used for land acquisition. Although the Nantucket Land Bank was developed
primarily for shore and estuary protection and restoration, select parcels are
acquired for aquifer protection.
- Spokane County, Washington, relies in part on a transfer tax to finance
sewers, treatment works, monitoring, and other activities in a special aquifer
BMPs FOR EROSION CONTROL
(This is the second of a two part article on BMPs to control erosion from
Specific types of best management practices (BMPs) for erosion control that
should be employed in many areas of Idaho include:
This article will cover BMPs five through 11. BMPs one through four were covered
in the March 1995 issue of WATER QUALITY UPDATE.
- Conservation cropping sequence.
- Crop residue management and conservation tillage.
- Contour and cross-slope farming.
- Contour strip cropping and divided slopes.
- Deep chiseling and subsoiling.
- Cover crops.
- Grassed waterways.
- Vegetative filter strips.
- Water and sediment control basins.
Deep Chiseling and Subsoiling
(Use to reduce surface runoff and soil erosion by about 20 percent.)
- Deep chiseling and subsoiling consists of pulling chisels
or subsoil shanks through the soil below normal plow depths to fracture
compaction layers and improve water infiltration.
- For best results, perform deep chiseling and subsoiling in the fall after
crop harvest when the soil is dry.
- To avoid concentrating surface water and creating gullies, pull chisels
and subsoilers on the contour or across slope.
- Deep chiseling and subsoiling leaves open fissures to the soil
surface where rain and snow can infiltrate. Advantage: Greater amounts of
moisture stored in the soil for the next crop.
- Close chisel and subsoiler fissures the next spring to avoid moisture
(Use to provide emergency or short-term soil protection.)
- A cover crop is one that is planted especially to protect
the soil from erosion and may be harvested for commercial purposes or tilled out
once the erosion period is over.
- Plant vigorous, close-grown crops in the fall to provide soil protection
- Rapidly establishing small grains are the most popular cover crops.
(Use to reduce soil erosion 60 to 80 percent from the flow area.)
Vegetative Filter Strips
- Most cropland fields have a variable topography, with normal
water runoff moving to the concave portions of the landscape known as
waterways. Erosion occurs in the waterway when the soil is loose or
has been tilled.
- Shape the sides of waterways and plant to grass to provide
protection from erosion.
(Use to reduce sediment 30 to 50 percent.)
- Vegetative filter strips are strips of grass or other close
growing vegetation that slow water runoff and trap sediment and other solid
- Plant filter strips in areas where water will pass over them as sheet
- Filter strips are most effective for removal of heavy particles.
(Use to reduce gully erosion and trap sediment.)
Water and Sediment Control Basins
- A terrace is an earthen embankment constructed across a
slope to trap and store water runoff or transport water to a non-erodible
- Terraces are best adapted to rainfed croplands but can also be used on
sprinkler irrigated croplands.
(Use to reduce suspended solids in runoff by 40 to 60 percent.)
- Water and sediment control basins are earthen embankments
constructed across minor watercourses.
- These small basins are effective for preventing gully erosion, trapping
sediment, and reducing downstream peak flows.
(Use to reduce soil loss by 60 to 70 percent.)
- Mulch the soil surface with off-site residue or other
organic material to protect soil when vegetative or residue cover is not
- Mulches improve water intake, absorb the impact of falling
raindrops, and trap water to slow its movement.
- Straw mulching is becoming a readily accepted way to reduce
irrigation-induced erosion in furrow irrigated fields.
Idaho has a number of BMPs to reduce soil erosion and nonpoint pollution of
surface water throughout the state. Best management practices are most
effective when they are applied as a system or combination of practices. To have
the greatest environmental impact use a combination of the above practices.
BLUE THUMB WATER LOG
Earth has been called the blue planet. Oceans, clouds, lakes, rivers, and streams
make it look blue from outer space. Nevertheless, only about one percent of all
the water on Earth is available for drinking, cooking, and a million other uses.
That's why having a Blue Thumb comes in handy. It helps you take care of our
precious and limited water resources. Post this log and check off a box every
time you use your Blue Thumb.
- Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. Encourage your family to do
- Take dead batteries and used motor oil to special collection centers. Help
your friends and neighbors do the same.
- Install a low-flow showerhead. Tell a coworker how much you save on water
- Repair a leaky faucet. Show a friend how.
- Use less weed killer and lawn and garden fertilizers. Talk with your
neighbors about doing the same.
- Write a letter to a local official urging more protection of water sources.
Send a copy of the letter to your local newspaper.
- Attend a community water meeting. Take a friend with you.
- Every time you exercise your Blue Thumb, you give drinking water a
©American Water Works Association
Permission is granted to the media and National Drinking Water Week
Participants to use this Blue Thumb Water Log for educational purposes.
To have a "Blue Thumb" means you know how to take care of water; conserve it and
protect it from pollution. You can have a "Blue Thumb" by taking positive actions
2. Use this to show you care for water (2 words)
7. Always run your tap until the water is _____ before drinking it
9. Save leftover hobby supplies, like this, and dispose of them at a special
11. Water that turns to vapor and rises to the sky
12. Use this to wash your bike rather than let the hose run
13. Put a nozzle on this to save water
14. All living things _____ water
16. Motor _____ should be taken to a service station for recycling
18. Most people get their water from a public water utility; but some people
use _____ wells
19. Some cleaners, like furniture polish, are _____ to water
20. Water occurs in _____ states: solid, liquid, or gas
21. You can fill this with water and put it in your refrigerator to keep water
1. Best time of the day to water the lawn or flowers
3. Don't water this when you expect it to rain
4. Turn this off while you brush your teeth
5. Room in your house that uses the most water
6. Place where water is cleaned and treated for drinking (2 words)
8. Consume a beverage, like water
10. Inspect all pipes and toilets for these
12. Aquifers are _____ ground
15. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water does this
17. Eighty percent of the earth's surface is covered with this
Answers in next issue.
Comments to webmistress:
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College of Agriculture, University of Idaho.
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 3, 2003