But what if that water is unfit to drink? (You can lead people to an article, but what if they won’t read it?)

Clean water is essential to life. The right to have clean water comes with the duty to be good stewards, and keep it clean and pure for drinking, growing food, use by other creatures, and recreating. One way to do this is to reduce stormwater runoff. But what is stormwater runoff?

Have you ever watched water gush out of gutters during a rainstorm, been amazed at how much of it there is, and watched it flow into the street toward the storm drain?

If rain or snow falls on porous ground, much of the water soaks into the ground, goes through layers beneath topsoil and recharges the water table.

But if there are impermeable surfaces such as roofs, roads, parking lots, exposed soil or even lawns, water flows through city storm drains or off land into rivers, lakes, streams and eventually into the ocean. That is called stormwater runoff.

Stormwater runoff pollutes our groundwater. It will carry whatever is in its path — valuable topsoil, grass clippings, dog waste, cow manure, pesticides, fertilizer, cigarette butts, plastic bags, trash, leaves, salt, and oil and gas from roadways.

During flooding, homes, people, animals and cars also can be carried with it.

Pollutant-rich runoff is dangerous for wildlife, fish, livestock, pets and people. It helps to create the toxic blue-green algae which affects fishing, boating and swimming. Nutrients in runoff also are the primary cause of “dead zones” where rivers meet the ocean, zones where most marine life cannot survive. Strange to think that Jefferson County pollutants can end up in the Mississippi Delta, but they do.

Excessive stormwater runoff also can lead to flooding, with all its negative impacts. The good news is that we can help reduce storm water runoff, and limit flooding and pollution by doing the following:

• Preserve wetlands, which hold large quantities of water, slowly releasing them into the watershed. (One acre of wetland, one foot deep, can hold approximately 330,000 gallons of water.)

• Develop land thoughtfully, taking into account that rainfall has to go somewhere, and is best absorbed on site.

• Do not put grass clippings into the street — leave them on the lawn or use them as mulch or compost.

• Dispose of pet poop in the garbage.

• Use rain barrels, and plant rain gardens with deep-rooted plants which hold soil and water, to capture water off roofs and driveways.

• Put in a bio-swale or French drain to catch roof water instead of having gutters empty onto pavement.

• Wash your car at a car wash to avoid putting pollutants down the storm drain.

• Keep storm drains free of debris, and do not pour pollutants down them.

• Urge your legislators to protect water quality, to promote green infrastructure such as permeable pavement and bios wales around paved areas, to preserve wetlands, and to regulate new development to reduce stormwater runoff. This will help keep water safe, and reduce costly flooding.

• Remember that we all live downstream. Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.

Visit www.protectwiwaterways.org and like the Protect Wisconsin Waterways Facebook page for more information.

(Kitty Welch is a member of Heart of the City. Heart of the City is a group of citizens interested in maintaining the small-town character and quality of life found in the Fort Atkinson community. To find more information, visit http://heartofthecity.us and find the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Heart-of-the-City-325874885646/)

Note: The Jefferson County Democrats is sponsoring a presentation on “Drinking Water in Jefferson County” at the Fort Atkinson Club on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Steve Elmore, the DNR statewide drinking water guru, will speak, as well as Kiersten and Pat Jurcek, who own a grass-fed beef business and are trained hydrogeologists. Kiersten and Pat will discuss how CAFOs affect rural water supplies.

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