Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Water-Friendly" Cleaning

The United States has the world’s 4th largest supply of fresh water in the world.  Our access to clean water is unprecedented, allowing us to turn on the faucet any time of the day or night and have clean water to use and drink at our convenience.  Many times we take water for granted in the southeast because it does seem plentiful, its not until its contaminated or unavailable that we think about it.

Everyday activities like doing the dishes, and using Phosphate-free detergent in your dishwasher help protect our surface waters.  Phosphate detergents have been banned in 16 states, because they have been known to harm surface waters.  It is the chemical that helps our dishes sparkle!  I would prefer sparkling river waters over sparkling dishes.   
Summer Algae in River
Phosphate is a nutrient, and what happens is when everyone uses phosphate fertilizers and phosphate dish detergents, excess phosphates end up in our river systems causing algae to grow.   If you’ve ever floated down the New River in August, it’s sometimes hard to paddle through all the algae.  When the algae dies and starts decomposing, a process called eutrophication occurs, which uses the oxygen in the river that is available for aquatic organisms.  This can be a problem in lakes, rivers and our oceans.  Make sure to check the labels and purchase phosphate free dishwasher detergents! 

Since we are in the of four major watersheds, the Watauga, New, Catawba, and Yadkin River basins, we can affect many water systems downstream.   Living in the mountains at a high elevation and knowing that gravity works, all of our streams flow down the mountain and into larger river systems.  For example the Watauga River flows west into Tennessee and converges with the Holston River, which flows into the Tennessee River and eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River.  So how we treat our water in the High Country affects many people and wildlife down stream.

To get you started on being water wise, Watauga County Cooperative Extension is promoting the Clean Home, Clean Watershed “water-friendly” home starter kit. The U-Mix-It Safe Spray bottles are available at the Cooperative Extension along with recipes on how to make homemade solutions using inexpensive natural ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, essential oils, and other natural cleansers and disinfectants.

The spray bottles are made in the USA from 25% recycled plastic milk containers.  The “water-friendly” recipes are printed directly onto the plastic where they will never wash off and are always available for quick and easy reference. These unique kits make it easy and fun for households to adopt safer alternatives that will help keep pollutants out of our nations watersheds.  The bottles are available at the Cooperative Extension for $3 each.  All proceeds go toward Water Resource Protection Programming in Watauga county.

An extra bonus:  By not using harsh chemicals to clean in your home, you are protecting the life of your septic system!   You are responsible for ensuring that your septic system is safe and working properly. A failing septic system is a health risk or your family and the community and may be causing harm to the environment.  It is recommended to not put any chemical cleaners down the drain into your drains including drain cleaners, household chemicals, paints, paint thinners, solvents, oils, grease, medicine, matches, cigarettes, pesticides, etc.  Not flushing anything down the toilet except toilet tissue and human waste will help your septic system function properly.  It is also very important to have your tank checked and/or pumped on a regular basis, every 3-5 years depending on use.    For more information on septic care, click to http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications/Soilfacts/AG-439-13/

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