Keep your Community Beautiful on “America Recycles Day”!

Here at CWEP, we know that clean and healthy water goes beyond just keeping leaves and oil out of our storm drains. It means supporting an entire system of sustainability and keeping our nation trash-free. One of the ways we can achieve this goal is through recycling. Today, the national non-profit Keep America Beautiful, which aims to increase national appearance through community involvement in cleanup and beautification projects, is hosting their annual event, “America Recycles Day.” America Recycles Day happens every year on November 15th, and communities from all over the nation participate with a variety of events from social media campaigns to local cleanups to school recycling education. There are over 2,504 registered events this year alone!

Here in North Carolina, we have a number of events, some of which are hosted by CWEP members. The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden (VEBCOG) in New Bern is hosting a Feed the Worms event in which they will be educating the public about compost and collecting vegetable food scraps, newspapers and cardboard to feed their worms over the winter. On Saturday, November 18th, CWEP member Spring Lake will be hosting a fall litter sweep to keep their town looking its best. During the event Spring Lake will also be accepting non-standard recyclables, such as e-waste, tires, eye glasses, cellphones, and medicine. If you don’t live in New Bern or Spring Lake, don’t worry, The State of North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance & Customer Service (DEACS) Recycling and Materials Management Section (RAMMS) is also hosting an event for America Recycles Day. Their event is social media-based and asks state agencies, businesses, and citizens to take photos of people who are recycling using the hashtag #CaughtRecycling. They also ask that people tag them in the posts on Twitter and Facebook at @RecycleMoreNC as well as sharing other pictures of their community’s events.

If your community got involved (or if you or someone you know got #CaughtRecycling), be sure to let them know!

There’s More Than One Way to Cut a Turkey: Alternative Methods of Grease Disposal

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans create 25% more waste than during the rest of the year? Yikes. That’s a lot of waste. And much of that waste comes from cooking, especially grease and fat from our favorite holiday turkeys and hams. As we learned in last week’s blog post, grease can cause a major hazard if not disposed of correctly. This holiday season, make sure to keep our stormwater clean and our stormwater systems functioning at peak efficiency by keeping it out of the drain. You may choose to dispose of grease in the trash or designated grease recycling centers.

However, disposal isn’t your only option for keeping our sewers fat-free. If you’re big into reusing, don’t worry, you don’t have to throw away or recycle your oil — you can use it for future cooking or crafts! You can use leftover grease and fat to make a roux, garnish your soup, sauté greens, or make salad dressings, bread, or pasta sauce. On the craft side, you can make candles, make dog and bird treats, or add it to your compost. For a full list of ideas of how to reuse oil, as well as information on what kind of oils to use for what cooking, check out this page from Fix.com

 

 

(Featured image from the municipal government of Addison, TX. Source)

The Importance of Infrastructure in the face of Natural Disasters

Continuing with our lead-up to “Imagine a Day Without Water”, this post focuses on the recent disaster-related impacts of failing infrastructure from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, some of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in many years. There is currently a capital need of $123 billion per year to close the gap between increasing demand and decreasing maintenance of water infrastructure – and this gap is widening every day.

At the intersection of both negligence and disaster-caused infrastructure lies Puerto Rico. The country, recently hit by Hurricane Maria, has very little functioning infrastructure, and many residents will be without power for up to six months. Therefore, they are without access to water and sewer infrastructure as well. Seeing as Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in almost 80 years, it would be easy to assume that the current infrastructure issues are the result of the unprecedented storm. However, as Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, Rutgers professor and Puerto Rican native, points out in a recent NPR segment, the problem started long before with the government’s decision to prioritize paying off debt rather than performing basic maintenance on the country’s electric, water, and wastewater systems. She notes that much of the damage could have been avoided if the proper maintenance work had been done when it was necessary. Now, with the addition of the storm damage, the issue is much more difficult (and costly) to solve. Listen to the full podcast here.

In Florida, Hurricane Irma overloaded local infrastructure, causing physical damage and health risks. Raw sewage and wastewater flooded the streets as a result of failed pumping stations and backed up sewers. Due to overwhelmed and under-maintained infrastructure, rebuilding will take even longer, as efforts can only begin when the area is “clean, dry, and free from potential health hazards.” The situation in Florida points to the necessity of designing infrastructure systems to fit local needs, such as extreme weather. Read more about the affects of Hurricane Irma on infrastructure here.

Keeping our natural waterways clean is important, but so is making sure our manmade water systems stay so as well. Make sure your local, state, and federal officials know you value investing in our nation’s infrastructure!

Safe, Reliable Water – At Risk!

This blog post was provided by the Value of Water Campaign, which works to promote awareness of the importance of clean drinking water access, and leads the Imagine a Day Without Water efforts. http://thevalueofwater.org/

With all the division in our government, it is easy to forget there are some policy priorities that actually cut across party lines and geographical boundaries. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but they have a lot in common too. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. Many of them commute to school or work. They travel with their families on summer vacations and for holidays. They buy groceries and eat at restaurants.

When it comes to the essentials, we really do have more that unites us than divides us, which is why the majority of Americans want the federal government to prioritize investing in infrastructure. Earlier this year, voters were polled on what they wanted the federal government to focus on for a legislative agenda. By a double-digit margin, investment in infrastructure was the most important topic above any other issue. Two thirds of voters said so. And an astonishing 82 percent of Americans said water infrastructure needed to be a top priority. Eighty-two percent of Americans can’t even agree on what day of the week it is!

But if you think about it, water unites all of us. Of course people say it should be a priority. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too.

An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, and water utilities to make up the difference. Which means it is on localities to raise taxes, or for utilities to charge water rates that can pay for the massive infrastructure system of pumps, plants, and pipes. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long.

We saw the tragedy in Flint, Michigan where thousands of residents were affected by tainted water supplies. Water systems in other communities are under threat too, and millions of Americans live in regions that completely lack water infrastructure.

There is no doubt about it – a day without water is a crisis. That is why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people to pay attention to our water systems. This country can do great things, and if 82 percent of Americans agree on something it must be important. Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American ever has to imagine a day without water again.

As the third annual “Imagine A Day Without Water” approaches on October 12th, we invite you view this video from the Value Water Campaign and imagine how your life would be impacted if we did not have ready access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water in this country.

Get Ready for A Day Without Water!

No, we’re not shutting off the pipes. CWEP and our member counties and municipalities are gearing up for A Day Without Water, an annual awareness event run by the Value of Water Campaign, or VWC. The VWC works to educate people about how much water they use and how we can get smarter about our water usage so that “a day without water” can be a pithy title, not reality.

Wanna get started on the fun? Head over to the water calculator to see how much water your household uses in a day. The results may surprise you! And if you do find the number as shocking as we did, no need to worry! The calculator gives you tips and tricks on how to save water — and the planet.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach and want to better understand how the water from your faucet gets there, consider booking a tour at a water and wastewater treatment plant in Raleigh, Durham, or Hillsborough. You can also check with your local plant for their tour options. Tours are free of charge and range from 1 to 3 hours. It’s a great after school activity! Make sure to act fast, however, as tour requests typically must be made at least two weeks in advance (so if you want to go on A Day Without Water, you’ll need to request a tour by Thursday, September 28th!).

We’ll be posting in the coming weeks about more ways you can get involved, but if you just can’t wait to learn more, you can check out more information who’s participating and the event itself on the website.

You can learn more about the VWC here.

When it comes to stormwater pollution, sharing is NOT caring!

Our everyday activities can really contribute to stormwater pollution if we aren’t careful. Trash, litter, pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil, you name it – it can end up in the storm drain and on its way to the nearest stream before you know it! Of course, that pollution can have a major impact on the fish and other animals that live in those streams, ponds, and rivers where the pollution ends up. What would happen if the fish could tell us they didn’t appreciate us sharing our dirty stormwater with them?

Check out the video below to see what happened when Jonny Fishpatrick was fed up with the stormwater pollution being dumped in his home, and imagine how this could be happening in your neighborhood!

The Basement Guide to Water Pollution

Thanks to Tyler with the Green Teens Club for sending over this great resource on water pollution! This infographic from Basement Guides offers a lot of interesting information on sources of contaminants in your home, as well as additional data on pollution around the world. Click on the image below to take a look at their site!

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Also check out the Green Teens Club website below to find more information about environmental issues, as well as see the cool work the Club is doing in their area. Maybe you’ll want to start your own club!

http://www.greenteensclub.org/

How Can I Conserve Water at Home?

Water is Worth Saving!

We all know that water is a precious resource, but sometimes we use more than we really need. This post will help you identify some things in your home that may be using too much water, as well as some things we can all do to cut down on water waste!

Here is a great infographic from PortaPotty.net (that’s right!) on the habits that waste the most water in average homes. These are things we are all guilty of doing, but that are really easy to fix if we just pay a little attention to our actions. Check out their site here for more cool diagrams, graphs, and information on the 25 best ways to conserve water!

savewater

So what do I do at home?

Now that we know some of things that waste the most water, what can we do to change? Here are some great steps you can take every day to reduce water consumption in your kitchen, bathroom, and even in the lawn, from HomeAdvisor!

Water Conservation Throughout the Home

Do you know your Watershed Address?

Everyone has an address. It starts with your name, then your house by number, then the road you live on, then the town, and finally the state you live in. Each part of your address is a larger area. Watersheds work the same way. Each small stream is part of a larger river system. Everybody lives in a watershed!

watersheds_trace

Smaller streams in the upper reaches of a watershed flow downhill to form a larger watershed or river basin. Trace your hand to see how small streams (fingers) flow together to form a larger water body like a lake (hand) which flows into a river (wrist and arm).

Watersheds Are Handy

A watershed is simply the area of land that drains to a body of water, so even a small creek in your backyard has a watershed. Small watersheds make up larger watersheds, which in turn form larger river basins, which may drain to the largest water body of all…the ocean!

Here’s a “hands-on” activity to help you visualize this concept!

  1. Trace your hand and wrist.
  2. Imagine your fingertips are high mountain tops. Picture rain falling on them, forming a small stream of water that flows down each finger. Also picture “groundwater” seeping up to the earth’s surface at each of your fingertips and adding water to the small stream or watershed.
  3. These five small watersheds flow into each other as they run down to your hand. Cup your palm—together the five small watersheds form one larger watershed.
  4. Imagine this large watershed joined by other large watersheds. Soon they flow together as one “river” down your wrist.
  5. The river continues its journey to your lower arm, your larger upper arm, and eventually flows into the largest part of you: your body or the largest water body on earth…the “ocean.”

Cool Fact: Your body is approximately 75% water, and so is the Earth!

Watersheds Are In Your Hands

Watersheds reflect how people treat their land and water. Healthy watersheds reflect human communities that value and respect the natural resources that sustain them. Clean water is the result of their individual and collective efforts to prevent water pollution.

Take Action

Today, the greatest threat to watersheds in our communities and our country is stormwater pollution! Give clean water a hand by practicing clean water stewardship every day. Here’s more information about stormwater in our daily lives.

Additional Resources

EPA’s Nonpoint Source Pollution pages for kids.

Give Water A Hand is a national watershed education program that can help you find out how to get involved in local environmental projects.

Did your nearby creek suddenly turn brown? Report it to the Muddy Water Watch!

Ever wonder what to do and who to contact when you see a problem in a creek or river? Many of us witness pollution in our waterways and may not know how to help. Now, a new tool helps citizens report sedimentation and erosion issues from construction, chemical releases, oil spills, or even trash accumulation in their areas.

The Muddy Water Watch was developed by Waterkeepers around the country as a way to monitor and protect their waterways from harmful pollution. Concerned citizens can submit, assign, and track incidents as soon as they are discovered using the website interface. Additionally, their handy mobile app can be downloaded for free and sends citizen reports directly to the Riverkeeper in the impacted area.

Check out more about what the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Riverkeepers in your area are doing to keep your water safe.

waterkeeper