Smart Steps for Clean Water 

Potable freshwater will always be one of our most valuable resources. While the amount of total water in the world has remained the same for millions of years, more and more of it has become contaminated, and no longer safe for use. While wastewater treatment plants are able to clean some of our waters, only what we use through our pipes gets cleaned. The rest of Cayuga Lake, and contaminants from runoff, go untreated.  Keeping our water clean is the best way to make sure that we, and our future generations, always have water to rely on. 
Here are some steps you can take to help keep our waters clean!

1. Build a Rain Garden

      -Direct water from your downspouts to vegetated areas on your lawn, or into an area planted with native, water loving species. This allows rainwater to be filtered through soil and plant roots, leaving water cleaner when it reaches the lake or its tributaries. This will also slow the travel of water, and reduce erosion and flooding. Rain Gardens are also an excellent way to fill in wet patches on your lawn with something beautiful! Learn more about building a rain garden at the Low Impact Design Center


2. Keep Woody Plants along Steep Slopes, Creek Banks, and Shorelines

-The woody plants that surround waterways are essential in keeping soil from washing into water. Soil pollution clouds water, choking fish and other organisms, and blocking sunlight from plants. Woody vegetation also works in filtering out pollutants before they can enter the waterway. Trees and vegetation also provide shade, keeping creeks and streams cool for cooler water species. 

3. Turn Down your Thermostat and Still Stay Warm!

-A programmable thermostat can be set to automatically turn down the heat each night then turn the heat on again to warm the house before you get up. Add to your savings by turning down the heat a few degrees and increasing the humidity; your home to will feel just as warm. Together these can save up to $600 a year in energy costs.

4. Turn Down your Water Heater to 120 degrees, 

-and turn it off before leaving home for four or more days. It can account for up to 1/3 of a home’s heating costs! Many dishwashers will heat the water if it needs to be hotter.


5. Dispose of Household Waste Responsibly 

-Read the label for instructions on how to safely dispose of toxic products or the container once empty.Alternatively, call your landfill or recycling center (Seneca Meadows phone: 315-539-5624)
 to find out if there are periodic Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Days where you can leave your toxic products. Toxic chemicals should never be flushed down the toilet or sink, or poured on the ground or down a storm drain.

6. Test Your Well Water At Least Once a Year For Coliform Bacteria and Nitrate

-(and keep records of the results and date). Test more often if there is a formula-fed infant, or a pregnant or nursing mother in the household;if someone develops an unexplained illness; or if you notice a change in taste, odor or appearance of your water. If you suspect contamination from a historical use or upstream source, you may want to run additional tests for the presence of suspected pollutants. If a change in your surrounding environment leads to a decrease in your water quality, consistent water test records are the best means of evidence. All water testing should be done by a state certified laboratory (they follow rigorous quality control measures).A list of certified laboratories can be obtained from the county Health Department. 

7. Underground Storage Tanks Should Be Replaced

-Aged, rusted, or outdated tanks lead to direct pollution of human waste into waterways. Not only is this toxic to people and animals, it can lead to increased algal growth. If you own or purchase an old home, make sure that your storage unit or septic is in good working order! Always remove tanks that are no longer in use. Annually inspect tanks currently in use.

8. Have Your Septic Tank Pumped and Inspected Regularly

-This routine maintenance is the most effective way to prolong the life of your sewage system. Annual pump-out and inspection is best if the system is nearing the end of its effective life, is close to the lake or other environmentally sensitive areas, or is undersized for your water usage.Otherwise, every 3 to 5 years is typically sufficient.

9. Conserve Water!

  -by using water saving devices and fixing leaks promptly. This will also extend the life of your septic system. In addition, divert water from a basement sump pump and runoff from roofs, patios, driveways, etc., away from your drain field. Extra water saturates the system, reducing its ability to process wastewater. Your wastewater system is designed only to treat household wastewater, not these additional sources of water. You can also save water by using rain barrels to capture rainwater for watering your plants or outdoor cleaning.

10. Use a Commercial Car Wash

  -They are connected to water treatment facilities that treat wash water. If you do wash your car at home, park it on the lawn (far from wells, streams, wetlands or the lake) so the grassy area and soil has a chance to filter the wash water.Using bio-degradable cleaners with no phosphates helps too.
Read the original 2006 publication "Smart Steps for Clean Water" for much, much more!