- Use pest management methods in your garden that minimize the use of chemical pesticides–a source of water pollution. If you must use pesticides, do so sparingly in targeted areas, and only when other methods are not successful.
- If you fertilize your lawn, use a phosphorusfree fertilizer or one with a low phosphate level. On every fertilizer bag there is a string of three numbers. The middle number indicates the phosphorus content. Look for one that does not exceed 3. Phosphorus promotes algal blooms which removes oxygen from water and kills fish, aquatic plants and animals.
- Use non-hazardous, biodegradable and phosphorous-free laundry and dishwashing detergents and household cleaning products. Phosphorus promotes algal blooms that kill fish, aquatic plants and animals.
- Rather than wash your car in your driveway, on the street or in your yard, take it to a commercial car wash that recycles water to save water and eliminate the runoff of harmful pollutants.
- Support projects that use reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses. For more information about reclaimed water, visit: www.wateruse.org.
- Replace your old toilet — the largest water user inside your home. Toilets made before 1993 use 3.5 to eight gallons per flush, while new high-efficiency models use 1.6 gallons or less — up to 80 percent less than older toilets.
- Minimize the use of garbage disposals and save gallons of water. Throw food waste in a trash can, or better yet, start a compost pile.
- Save water by choosing a fuelefficient vehicle. It takes 44 gallons of water to refine one gallon of crude oil.
- Dispose of household contaminants safely to avoid polluting groundwater. Collect old batteries, used antifreeze, paint and chlorinated solvents and take them to the landfill.
- Keep your septic system in good working order. Mow the septic field often, inspect your tank annually and pump it out at least every three to five years. Failing septic systems leach organic wastes that can cause excessive algae growth and disease-producing pathogens in water sources.
- Hot water pipes are likely to have more corrosion. To avoid contaminants that may be in drinking water, let the water run for several minutes on the first draw in the morning. Never drink from the hot water faucet or use this water for cooking.
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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. To subscribe to Carolina Public Health or to view the entire Fall 2007 issue in PDF, visit www.sph.unc.edu/cph.