April 25, 2008

Water is a basic necessity for humans, but few people realize where their water comes from or how their daily activities affect water quality. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service county offices and the UK Environmental and Natural Resource Issues Task Force will educate Kentuckians on ways they can improve water quality in their communities as part of Kentucky Water Awareness Month in May.

“When people learn where their drinking water comes from and how their daily activities impact water resources, it becomes a personal issue,” said Amanda Abnee Gumbert, UK extension specialist for water quality. “It really helps people understand and pay attention to the quality of their water.”

Kentucky’s biggest water issue is the result of nonpoint source pollution, she said. This type of pollution occurs when trash, sediments, nutrients and pathogens enter waterways. Not only does it require drinking water to go through a longer and costlier purification process, but it can create health hazards for aquatic life by lowering oxygen levels, emitting poisonous chemicals and destroying aquatic habitats.

There are numerous things people can do to improve water quality in their communities. Making simple changes to daily routines reduces the amount of contaminants absorbed by rainwater as it filters through the ground or travels to the nearest body of water. Some of these changes include picking up litter and pet waste, composting yard and kitchen waste and refraining from dumping down storm drains. Reseeding bare spots in your lawn prevents soil erosion. Farmers and gardeners can lower water pollution levels by having a soil test done before applying pesticides or fertilizers to prevent the application of unnecessary chemicals. For more information on water quality issues, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service.

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