Where does our tap water come from?
Here are some things to look out for in order to find out!
We use freshwater every day in a variety of ways: drinking, bathing, gardening & cooking, just to name a few. It is not new news that water is vital for us. A cold glass of water on a hot summer day is a great reminder of this.
But how much do we talk about the value of water before we are discussing the scarcity of it? We hear about a drought and all of a sudden the reality of 'finite quantity' is looming. A disjointed reality from our daily practice of turning on the kitchen faucet, the garden hose, or washing our hair in the shower. The water looks plentiful but it isn't, right?
Learning more about how our fresh water arrives to us, we can have a little more control in this conversation and feel equipped to make the topic of water a point of casual conversation within our communities.
With just some key words and their definitions, we can imagine the journey our water takes from the source to our tea kettle.
Knowledge is power, as they say!
We can start by finding the nearest freshwater source to us. This could be a lake (man-made or natural), a spring, a reservoir, a river...etc. For many rural areas, these are the most likely sources. For major metropolises, the freshwater source is more often from wells that have been ground into the earth. Although, in all likelihood it is a combination of both.
Surface water is water that collects above ground in a stream, river, lake, reservoir, or ocean. This happens through collected precipitation (think rain water) and water run-off (think melted snow).
Ground water, which is obtained by drilling wells, is water located below the ground surface in pores and spaces in the rock. This is when precipitation infiltrates the soil beyond the surface and is collected in empty spaces underground.
An aquifer is a body of rock and/or sediment that holds groundwater.
A watershed - sometimes called a basin or drainage basin - is an area of land that drains to a common (surface) waterway such as a stream, lake, wetland, or ocean. We all live in a watershed, although some are hidden underground.
An aqueduct is a water transportation and distribution system. In antiquity, they were multi-storied brick structures made from a series of arches and pipes (think Roman, Constantinople). But today, they are a series of ditches, pipes, canals and tunnels.
For crystal clear water, water passes through a filtration system. Surface and groundwater are collected and passed through a filter made of sand, coal particles or similar materials that removes particles such as silt, other very fine solids, and any leftover pathogens.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as a guide to better understand the unique water region you are living in. Some questions are followed by resource links that are not region specific, while other questions can be translated and made specific for any region.
What watershed do I live in?
You can find out using Google Earth with the Layers panel.
How much of my water comes from the mountains around me? (substitute 'mountain' for the specific mountain range in your region)
Am I living in a drought region?
Find out using these global drought monitors.
How does the water distribution system work where I live?
How is my water cleaned?
All water quality reports are public property and can be found often through government sites. See how often the reports come out where you live and skim them for updated information to know more.
Can I drink my tap water?
This is easy to search for on any browser, and so important for travel as well when you stay local. Make sure to check out if boiling your tap water makes it safer to drink, and what sort of bacteria and/or pathogens have been found in your water.
Remember to celebrate water and continue to talk about the importance of access to clean and fresh water.
What does water mean to you?
by Hannah Alongi