August is National Water Quality Month, so it’s a good time to think about what comes out of your tap. Pure, clean drinking water is there at your command, but have you ever thought about where it comes from?
If you get your drinking water from Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg or Tampa, your drinking water comes from Tampa Bay Water, the region’s wholesale water supplier. Our diverse water supply network includes groundwater, treated surface water and desalinated seawater.
With three different sources of supply, we have three different processes to clean and disinfect drinking water—but the cleaner the source water, the less intensive the cleaning process. Protecting drinking water sources from contamination protects not only protects your drinking water, it protects environment, and saves money and energy. And it’s something we can all do.
How Can Residents Help?
Here in the Tampa Bay region, we all live in a watershed. Everything we do on land, in the water or near the water impacts the environment around us. Here are a few tips to help you protect the watershed and your drinking water:
- Never dump chemicals. Chemicals dumped in storm drains pollute waterways. Chemicals dumped on the ground can seep into the aquifer and pollute groundwater supplies. Many local governments have laws that prohibit dumping and include hefty fines for violators.
- Properly dispose of pollutants. Used motor oil, antifreeze, paint, roof tar, rechargeable batteries, unused fertilizer, unused medicine and other similar contaminants can be recycled at your local solid waste plant.
- Pick up pet waste. One ounce of dog waste contains 23 million microorganisms of disease-causing fecal coliform bacteria. It also adds nutrients to our waterways that promote algae growth, cloud the water and prevent seagrasses from getting the sunlight they need to grow. Either flush your pet’s droppings or put it in the garbage.
- Banish butts. Cigarette butts thrown on the ground are carried into waterways by rain. They are not biodegradable. Dispose of used butts properly to avoid polluting.
- Put trash where it belongs. Recycle, reuse or put it in the garbage. Plastic does not decompose and can harm many animals and fish as well as pollute the water.
- Use Florida-friendly fertilizer. Use slow-release fertilizer in the garden and on the lawn with only ¼ inch of water. Watch the weather and never fertilize before rain. Rain washes fertilizer into the environment. When possible, use Florida-friendly plants—they use minimal water and fertilizer.
How Can Community Organizations Help?
Community groups, non-profit organizations, teachers, schools and universities can have a tremendous impact on source water protection. That’s why Tampa Bay Water awards mini-grants annually to support these groups’ efforts that protect water resources and raise public awareness on a community level. The grants range from $2,000 to $10,000. Eligible projects include stream clean-ups, education programs, bank restoration and stabilization, tree plantings as well as training, educational seminars and school activities.
Mini-grant applications are accepted through Nov. 15 of each year. More information is available at tampabaywater.org/source-water-protection-mini-grant-funding.
Need to Know More?
If you want more information about protecting watersheds and drinking water sources in your neighborhood, there are a number of resources at your fingertips:
Southwest Florida Water Management District – Watersheds
Hillsborough River Watershed Alliance
Pinellas County – Watershed Management
US EPA – Surf Your Watershed