7 Tips to Prevent Contaminated Runoff into Water Sources

Useful tips the average citizen can do to prevent contaminated water runoff from entering local drinking water sources.

What is in your water?


Do you ever wonder how clean your drinking water is? And what you can do to prevent water runoff?

Here are seven tips you can do to prevent contaminated water runoff into drinking water sources from the NRDC.

  1. Don’t over- water your lawns and gardens. Over-watering lawns not only wastes water, but can also increase fertilizers leaching into groundwater.
  2. Grow plants and flowers that native to your area. Native plants need less water, are more tolerant of drought conditions, cost less to maintain and provide habitat for birds and butterflies.  The less water needed for plants, means the more drinking water you have for your community.
  3. Use natural fertilizers. If you only apply natural fertilizers, such as compost, peat, rotted manure, and bone meal to help stimulate plant growth and retain soil moisture, you’ll decrease the use of chemical fertilizers that pollute local water sources.
  4. Use a drive thru car wash instead of washing your car at home. If you take your cars to a professional car wash, they are required to drain the wastewater into sewer systems, where it is treated before being discharged. This prevents oil and other fluids from your car from running into a sewer unfiltered and contaminating water sources.
  5. Recycle and properly dispose of all trash. When you improperly dispose of trash, such as flushing diapers or baby wipes, you can damage the sewage treatment process. Without proper water treatment, you could incur more costs and unsafe water.
  6. Make sure you dispose of all pet waste properly. Pick up pet waste before it has an opportunity to enter storm drains and water supplies from rain runoff.
  7. Do not dispose chemicals down the drain. When you need to dispose of caustic chemicals that could find their way into drinking water sources. of drinking water, (examples here)  Contact your local sanitation, public works, or health department to find hazardous waste collection days and sites, and check Earth911.com for local recycling options.

These are a few steps you can take to protect our natural water resources in your communities.  Next article will provide tips how to protect drinking water if you live outside the city limits.

Can Potted Plants Really Grow Up? Benefits of Vertical Gardening

Vertical container gardens are perfect to grow in a small space like a balcony or patio. Easy DIY vertical garden ideas that don’t cost a lot to start.

Those topsy turvy planters may have something hanging over those who do not have the space to grow a garden. I long to have my own planted garden in a yard someday. However, until then, I have to settle for a 10 by 4 ft balcony with potted plants.

I’d really like to know how to grow a “salad garden” with green peppers, lettuce, onion, carrots, radish, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs in my limited space. With this idea of a vertical garden, I may be able to grow my garden up – literally.

Benefits of growing a vertical garden

Small is nice (and convenient). When space is limited, vertical container gardening or a small garden bed is just what will work.  You’ll only need pots as deep as the roots will grow since your plants will grow upwards and not outwards. Less is more. You will still need some support poles or a trellis to train the plants to go up. 

Vertical tower pots and containers are perfect for a balcony or patio. Stacking pots or tower pots are commercial containers help you grow plants that don’t have a vine like strawberries, lettuce, carrots, onions, etc. As a bonus, you can add a trellis or other supports in containers or put behind containers to create your vertical garden in a small space like a balcony or patio. You can also hang containers on a wall at different heights to create an visually appealing vertical garden.

Vertical tower pots get your plants to grow up in a small space.

Think outside the clay pot.Be creative about the containers for your vertical garden. Why buy new clay or plastic pots, when you probably have something out in your garage or shed that would work just fine. Extra gutter pieces or cinder blocks taking up some space in the corner? Even an old milk crate would work. Look at the photos below for some inspiration.

Use extra gutter pieces to create a vertical garden. Courtesy of FunDesignIdeas.com

More fruit in half the space.Since your garden is growing upward and using less soil, you’ll find that the fruits of your labor will reward you much more than traditional gardens. Use a support system behind and/or beside your plants and allow about 6 inches away from a wall or fence so plants can produce fruit on all sides.

Build your own support system for a vertical garden like this one above. Courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune.
Less energy and muscle strain to harvest. Remember your grandmother’s stories of how she had an aching back from bending over while picking tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables from the garden? With a vertical garden, you won’t have to suffer so much although you may have to reach above your head if your plants reach their maximum height. It will be much easier to see and harvest your fruit, herbs and vegetables when they are growing up rather than across the ground. 

You’ll find more information in the book Vertical Gardening,  by Derek Fell available through my AmazonStore.

The Facts about Household Water Usage

Average household water usage statistics.

A few years ago my son came home from school to a note on our door that read something like “Had to turn water off due to pipe leak. Will get water back on soon.” – That’s it. My son called me at work about the note and said there wasn’t any water coming from the sinks. I told him to not flush the toilet until I got home.

Once I arrived home I read the note myself and tried all the faucets. No water.

We hoped the water would be turned back on at least in a couple days, but that didn’t happen. In fact it was more like 7 weeks without running water! That meant no showers, no flushing toilets, no washing dishes, no washing hands or any other kind of washing including clothes.

We didn’t have any other place to stay or to go for that matter. So, I gathered up every bucket and container that I could possibly fill and asked my other neighbor if I could fill up using their outdoor hose. That got us through 1 day. The next day a friend gave us a 5 gallon container, which we filled up and used for washing hands, dishes and cooking along with the other buckets.  Then I bought a five gallon container, so we could fill up about 12-14 gallons of water every day.

This is what I learned about our daily consumption of water…

  • Each toilet consumed about 3 – 5 gallons of water for every flush. That’s a lot of water! Our house had 2 bathrooms, but we only flushed one toilet once a day as needed.
  • I could wash a sink full of dishes including pots and pans using only 1 gallon of water. It’s not about how much water you use, it’s about how well you scrub.
  • Baby wipes and hand sanitizer work just as well as soap and water. This is how our troops keep clean too.
  • I could take a bath using only 3 gallons of water – heated first on the stove of course.

I don’t know how much water my stackable washer used, but I’m sure it was way too much. I had to do laundry at the laundromat or at a friend’s house, which was both inconvenient and sometimes expensive.

After several weeks of divvying up water for various needs, we were finally blessed to have the well replaced, new lines put in and increased water pressure restored. Although I still kept one of the 5 gallon containers on hand just in case.

There’s a new meter on the market which measures your water consumption and let’s you know when you’ve used too much. The Koolhaus faucet let’s you know not only how much water you have consumed from the faucet, but also from the entire bathroom. I’m afraid of what it will say about my son who takes 2 mini showers a day to my 1 every other day.

How much water does your family use at home on a daily basis? Take this quiz to find out from the USGS site. I was shocked to find that our 2 person family consumes much more than I thought! Yikes!