If you're like many homeowners, you sometimes feel helpless and frustrated regarding the deterioration of the environment, especially when it comes to the rivers, lakes, streams, and seas. Unfortunately, there may not be much the private individual can do about the state of pollution in the oceans and other waterways beyond not littering or otherwise directly introducing potential harmful material to these areas. However, you do have a degree of control when it comes to your own groundwater. Following are five simple ways that you can help keep your local groundwater as clean as possible.
Don't Flush Drugs
Although it's common practice in many households to flush prescription medications down the toilet when they're no longer needed, these chemicals end up in groundwater and nearby waterways. Negative effects on wildlife have already been discovered in many areas of the planet, and levels of pharmaceuticals have been found in municipal tap water supplies. Most police departments have collections programs where medications that are dropped off are safely destroyed in an incinerator. Pharmacies also provide postage-paid envelopes where you can mail your unused medicine back to the distributor.
Landscape With Native Plants
Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are all major pollutants of groundwater. You can drastically cut down on and even eliminate their use by landscaping with native plants. The reason for this is simple—because native plants evolved with local pests, pathogens, soil conditions, and weather patterns, they don't need to be babied along with chemical aids. As an added bonus, you'll save on utility costs because native plants can get along on rainfall alone, except in times of drought. You can even choose lawn grass varieties that are adapted to regional conditions, or you can choose a native plant ground cover, install a rock garden, and go without a lawn at all.
Clean With Natural Products
Natural cleaning products are far easier on groundwater health than their chemical-laden counterparts, especially those with high concentrations of perfumes. You can purchase these from a variety of retailers as well as making them yourself from items you probably already have in your cupboard. White vinegar mixed with water, for instance, makes an excellent all-purpose cleaner, and when mixed with a little baking soda, it has scouring properties and can be used on greasy pots and pans.
Keep Your Septic System Well Maintained
Keeping a well-maintained septic system is an essential part of being a good groundwater steward. Resist the temptation to flush chemicals and non-biodegradable objects down the toilet or the sink, and be mindful of your water usage. Too much water in too short a time period can overwhelm your septic system, so space out loads of laundry throughout the course of the week rather than having a designated laundry day. Use toilet paper marketed as being septic-safe as well as environmentally friendly soaps, shampoos, and other personal grooming products.
Your septic filter should also be cleaned on a regular basis, and depending on the amount of use and the size of your household, you should schedule septic system pumping every 1–5 years. Because tree roots can seriously damage septic tanks and pipes, you should remove any large trees or shrubs with extensive root systems in the vicinity of your trunk.
Keep Drains Clean and Clear
Most people don't give their drains any thought until they become clogged—and then they reach for an over-the-counter drain cleaning product that contains harsh chemicals that damage their pipes as well as polluting the groundwater. Clogs also provide a fertile breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can have a negative impact on the groundwater. A better alternative is to purchase a plumber's snake from your local home improvement retailer and use it instead of traditional drain-cleaning products. Having your drains cleaned by a professional plumbing service, like Five Star Plumbing, on a regular basis also helps ensure that clogs are kept to a minimum.