Protect your drinking water

What can you do to protect the water you drink?Janie Harris, the Extension Housing and Environmental Specialist with the Texas A&M University System, composed an article in 2004 entitled "Your Actions Can Help Protect Our Drinking Water". In November 2010, the three-page report was revised to include more vital information.No matter where your drinking water comes from, the best way to ensure its protection from contamination is through personal actions taken in and around the home. Possible pollution can come from excessive amounts of nitrate from animal or human waste, hazardous chemicals emitted into a nearby water source, or through harmful household products."In West Texas, with the lack of rain, water is a vital resource that must be protected and we can do this with a couple reminders," said Dale Adams, General Manager of the Wes-Tex Groundwater Conservation District (GCD) in Nolan County.In the article, Harris addresses three key factors in protecting the water through proper selection and usage, storage and disposing of hazardous household products.In selecting a product, determine what meets your needs in the safest manner. Reading labels for content information, instructions for use and ingredients that may potentially harm humans or the environment are of utmost importance. However, the article stresses to buy the product in the amount that it is needed, as well as using the product in accordance to the instructions. More instructions and/or information can be retrieved by contacting Poison Control (1-800-764-7661) or requesting a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the manufacturer.Storage of the products in the safest manner, a second factor, should also be provided on the label, in which a variety of guidelines are generally listed.Among them include keeping products away from children and pets in a secure yet locked location. Storage in the original container is strongly urged, but in the instance of transferring the product, clearly write the identity of the contents as well as the purchase date on the container.Other guidelines are keeping containers dry and tightly sealed and in a well-ventilated area away from areas where the contents could ignite. Batteries and flammable chemicals should be stored in a shaded and dark area, and most importantly should be placed at least 150 feet away from a well or waterway.The final factor in protection is to safely dispose the hazardous products. This last component can be easily eliminated, however, by purchasing and using only what is needed, using any leftovers, and recycling.Should the product be disposed, read the label in order to determine the proper and safe methods of disposal. While some products can easily be poured down the drain with water (considering if the septic system can tolerate it), others can be taken to a landfill if stored in its proper container.On the other hand, a variety of products should only be disposed of during a community collection day or by a licensed hazardous waste contractor. Other products like used motor oil may even be taken to a recycling center.Harris strongly notes to never burn or dump leftover products or containers on the ground. However, each person's household habits can have some type of effect on the environment. Damage can be done in groundwater, stream and/or lake quality from surface runoff contamination from personal disposal practices.For more helpful tips, feel free to contact Adams at 236-6033 or by visiting the Extension office on the third floor of the Nolan County Courthouse.