two people are standing in the middle of a stream

5 Easy Swaps For Healthy Waterways

The water that passes through our pipes is often forgotten about. Those who have access to safe water from any faucet don’t have to think about where their water is coming from (nor do they have to think about where it goes). However, a lot can end up in local waterways—and there are a lot of easy behavioral changes that can help keep our water clean.

1. Stop pouring grease down the drain

It’s an easy enough way to clean after cooking. An emptied pan with nothing but a bit of olive oil—why not wash it down the sink with a bit of soap? Once in the drain, the grease will coat the inside of the pipes, hardening when the weather is cold enough. Should the grease make it to the main sewers, it will get caught and harden against already existing blockages, worsening the obstruction. There are a number of other ways to dispose of olive oil, including reusing it, composting it, and simply wiping it up with a paper towel and disposing it in the trash. 

2. Don’t flush your wet wipes (or anything else!)

Even when they’re labeled as “flushable” (and can technically go down the drain), wet wipes will not dissolve once they’re moving through the pipes. Instead, once they disappear from sight, they clump together and form major stoppages, damaging both the small, internal pipes of a single home as well as larger sewer systems within major cities. A behavioral change as small as throwing out wet wipes instead of flushing them will help keep waterways free from blockages—an individual act that, in the collective, will make a substantial difference.

3. Use a commercial car wash

Not only do commercial car washes give your car more coverage and a better clean, but they are also the eco-friendly choice when compared to hand washing. Commercial car washes use less water than the typical hose; many locations catch and recycle the water for future use. In the case of hand washing cars, cleaning agents and chemicals will inevitably end up in the waterways, polluting the water. These materials are yet another contributor to blockages in sewers, as they catch on everything that has already piled up and harden against the massive collection of fats, oils, greases, and anything else that was too solid to pass by.

4. Get a trash can with a lid

Lidded cans have many benefits, such as keeping flies and animals out (and odors in). Beyond this, they also contribute to keeping waterways clean—should your bin blow over, cans without lids will spill trash everywhere. This waste could end up in sewer systems and storm drains, polluting local water and creating blocks in the pipes. If you live in Baltimore and don’t already have a lidded can, you can call 311 to request your free can.

5. Keep native plants

Aside from the multitude of benefits to the local ecosystem, native plants are great at keeping water clean. Their roots grow deeper than non-native species, which means that they are better at preventing erosion and filtering water that passes through nearby soil. If you’re looking for some new native species to add to your garden, our Herring Run Nursery specializes in plants native to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. There, you can find over 250 species of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and more.

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