<title>What's Up With Our Nation's Waters?</title>
<type>single page tiff</type>
<keyword>water points ground watershed www dirt add information wetlands family subtract wetland drain visit storm stream gov kids out waters</keyword>
Office of Water
Washington, DC 20460
Maf fon's tai,
The Big Three Pollufawfs
For tihte waterbodies listed as IMPAIRED in
the National Water Quality Inventory, the top
three pollutants causing problems are dirt,
bacteria, and nutrients.
t- Hi it -"HP"1 *
jcdastal waters. Remem
Bacteria, specifically fecal coliforms (which
d in the intestines of humans and
;est water quality problem in our
i - i .
not all bacteria are harmful
That's right, dirt. Dirt was
listed as the number one
(yogurt contains live bacteria cultures!), but the presence of
Pfecal'coTifbrmsls a clue tRat otfier germs" and viruses that can
make you sick might be in the water too.
ere do tirie bacteria come from?
.ejnaajor sources of fecal coliform bacteria are failing septic
items, dTscharges fronTsewage treatment plants, and* live-
cause of pollution in our rivers and
streams. When rain washes dirt into
streams and rivers, it smothers the little
critters in the stream and kills any fish
eggs dinging to rocks. Dirt can also clog the
gills of fish, suffocating them. Have you ever ^ _ _
walked into a pond or lake and noticed huge ^eommunffieTare educating residents about how to main-
swirls of muck rising up and douding your view "r—lalnseptic^ystelnsrijve^tock owners are developing
of die bottom? Well, if the plants that use the sun X'' ^e^w^^manage their animal manure. Many
to make food (yes, thaf s right, photosynthesis) can't ^^ommSuSfeies now'require owners to pick
get enough sunlight because the water is murky, they die.
one to control bacteria?
of untreated sewage into coastal waters.
Up"*arter their "pets Idog waste
Where does all this dirt come from?
Most of the dirt washing into lakes and streams comes from activities
that remove trees and shrubs and leave the earth exposed. This exposed earth
includes fields that have just been plowed, construction sites that have been
bulldozed, and areas that have been logged or mined. Bare patches in your
lawn or ballfield can also contribute to the problem. Some of the dirt polluting
streams comes from the stream banks. The problem is that fast-moving water
erodes the banks of streams. The water moves faster because the vegetation
that would slow it down has been replaced with pavement and buildings.
What's being done to control dirt?
The solution is to stop the dirt from getting into the stream in the
first place by disturbing the land as little as possible. Farmers are
using different methods to grow their crops so they leave less earth
exposed, and they plant grasses in fields that aren't being used
Construction workers are putting up silt fences and hay bales
to trap the dirt and contain it while they build. Developers
can design new home sites that leave more natural areas
and less pavement to reduce the amount of earth -
Nutrients were listed as the
number one cause of water
quality pollution in our lakes,
; £. ponds, and reservoirs. They caused |
impairment in more than 3.5 mil-
* lion acres! (That's more than 2.6
" million football fields!) The two most |
common nutrients are nitrogen and
phosphorus, which cause algae to grow
and can turn the water green.
Where do nutrients come from?
The major sources of nutrients are agricultural
activities (fertilizers and animal waste), failing
"^X. _ s!-ur ' :. , ..-, ^^^Aseptic systems, and homeowner activities (like overfer-
"^<J| ^§T™^| '^^^''^^^S^^S^^U^^^^^l. "
Farmers are learning new ways to apply fertilizer so they don't use more than they need.
Ranchers are managing livestock waste and fencing off streams from their livestock.
Homeowners are being educated to use lawn fertilizers carefully, and communities
are educating residents about proper septic system maintenance. ,/
are These P°lluf anf s coding $r<>wi?
True or false? Factories are the major source of pollutants in our waters.
False. Thirty years ago that statement was true, but since then we've made a lot of progress cutting
down on pollution from factories and sewage treatment plants. Although these can stiU pollute in
some areas, today most of the problems in our waters comes from polluted runoff draining into
rivers, lakes, and bays after a rain storm. Rain washing over the landscape carries dirt, oil, fertilizer,
pesticides, animal waste and many other substances off streets and farms and into our waters.
As we pave over natural areas to make parking lots, driveways and roads (known as impervious
surfaces) the rainwater doesn't slowly soak into the ground like it used to. Instead it's channeled
into gutters, culverts, and storm drains. These tend to be convenient places for people to illegally
dump used motor oil, trash, and yard waste. These pollut-
ants then are whisked directly into our streams, wetlands,
bays, and lakes.
And there's more. All over the country, streams have been
straightened and physically altered to flow in a certain
direction; some have been lined with concrete. This makes
water rush faster after a rainstorm (increasing erosion)
and makes it difficult or impossible for plants and aquatic
f roof or a
creatures to live and thrive. Wetlands
have been dredged and filled to make
way for houses, golf courses, and shop-
ping malls. Dams constructed to control
the flow of water also prevent migratory
fish, such as salmon, shad and sturgeon,
from swimming upstream to spawn.
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e all need to work together to reduce
and prevent polluted runoff. For exam-
ple, the federal government works to
ensure that lands belonging to the gov-
ernment are properly managed to cut
down on soil erosion. Farmers are learn-
ing^ how to manage their land, crops,
and animals to keep them from affecting
nearby waters. Your city, town or county
has local" laws controlling what can be
built where, and how construction sites
should be managed to keep rainwater
from washing bare dirt away. You can
play an important role by practicing
wafer ccmsefvltion and by changing cer-
tain everyday habits (see What Can I
Do??? on p. 11)7
As for all those straightened and chan-
neled streams and impervious surfaces,
prevention is the key. Once a stream has
been altered or an area has been paved
over, it's very difficult (and it costs a lot
of money) to undo the damage. Some
communities are beginning to realize the
value of clustering new buildings where
roads and paved areas already exist,
arid leaving open spaces like woods
an3 farmlandalone. Laws that make it
illegal to drain or fill a wetland are
being enforced. And many streams that
were altered in the past are now being
restored to flow in a more natural way.
Wetlands are a very important
part of the environment. They
help slow down and clean up pol-
luted runoff from the land and pro-
vide habitat for animals. You will
find wetlands in areas where water covers
the soil or is present at or near the ground
surface for part or all of the year. Some-
times a wetland will actually appear dry at
certain times of the year! You can often tell
if something is a wetland by the types of
plants that are growing in it. Most of these
plants, like cattails and swamp roses, are
adapted to living in the water and can't live
in dry soil for very long.
f f or
Over one-third of all the threatened and endangered
species live in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at
some time in their lives.
Wetlands as sponges
Have you ever poured water onto a damp sponge? The sponge will hold a
lot of water before it slowly starts to leak. The same happens in a wetland.
A wetland will trap runoff water that flows into it during a rainstorm and
will slowly release the water later. This helps to prevent flooding.
Wetlands as filters
After being trapped by the wetland sponge, polluted runoff water moves
slowly through a wetland, finding its way around plants and through
small spaces in the soil. While it moves, the nutrients are absorbed by
the plant roots that poke through the soil spaces. Some spaces are very
small and pollutants get trapped. Sometimes the pollutants just stick to
the soil. By the time the water leaves the wetland it is much cleaner than
it was when it entered. This is why many people think of wetlands as
nature's filter system.
Wetlands as habitat
Wetlands are home to many types of macroinvertebrates,
fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles.
These animals rely on the plentiful food, water,
and shelter that the wetland offers. While
some animals spend their whole lives
in a wetland, many use it only for
a particular time in their lives,
such as for hatching eggs and
Ground water is the water
that is found beneath the
earth's surface. Have you ever
driven on a road cut along
the side of a hill and seen what
looked like layers inside the earth? If we
could see the ground beneath us, it would look
very similar. The top layer of earth is dirt, but
as you get deeper, the dirt changes into layers
of solid rock. Believe it or not, each of these
layers has many small spaces and cracks filled
with water. Ground water moves slowly as it
finds its way from space to space in the rock.
Why is Ground Wafer Iwjporfanf?
Ground water is an important water source
for all of us. The United States uses about
77,500 million gallons of ground water each
day for all sorts of uses like drinking water,
washing clothes, watering crops, and making
food products. Over half of the people in the
U.S. rely on ground water for drinking.
Is our Ground Wafer clean?
States report that their ground water quality
is good overall. Unfortunately, many states do
have areas with polluted ground water. The
most commonly cited pollutants in ground
water include manufactured compunds (like
gasoline products) and nitrates.
Whaf causes Ground Wafer
States report that most pollution is caused by
gasoline and other fuels that leak from tanks
buried underground. Gas stations aren't the
only places with buried tanks. People who use
oil for heat in the winter often have tanks
buried in their backyards. Other potential pol-
lution sources that you can't see include leaky
septic systems and leaky landfills.
Ground water pollution can also begin above
ground. If man-made ponds that are used to
treat wastewater are not properly installed and
maintained, they can leak polluted water into
the ground. Pollution such as chemicals spilled
on the ground, bacteria and nutrients from live-
stock areas, and pesticides and nutrients from
farmland can also seep down to the ground water.
can We 9>c f He Problems?
Sometimes ground water pollution is caused by
different types of sources that slowly leak a little
pollution. Because the sources are spread out,
environmental managers have a difficult time
finding and controlling the pollution. In other
cases, one pollution source (such as a buried fuel
tank) can leak a large amount of pollution into
the ground water. Once this pollution is discovered,
environmental managers can often pinpoint the
source and stop the pollution. However, even if a
source is pinpointed and removed, the pollution
already in the ground water is difficult to dean up.
Therefore, the best way to fix ground water pollution
is to keep it from happening in the first place.
Whaf caw I do f o Prof ecf My
First of all, become informed. A great place to
start is EPA's ground water and drinking water
homepage at www.epa.gov/ogwdw. Does your
drinking water come from ground water? How
often is it tested? What products in use around
your house (paints, cleaners, lawn chemicals)
could pollute your ground water if they were
poured down the drain or dumped outside?
What activities on the land might affect your
ground water quality? Next, do something with
what you've learned. Encourage your family to
switch to environmentally safe products. Help
others learn about the importance of ground
water through a class project or a booth at a
fair. Visit the Ground Water Foundation's web
site at www.groundwater.org for more ideas and
information on the annual Children's Ground
Water Festival and Ground Water University.
caw I do???
hese problems didn't happen overnight,, so it's going
to take time to clean them up. People in your state
^ and county are doing lots of things to keep waters
healthy, but they can't do it all. Do you think someone is
watching how much fertilizer your mom puts on her garden
or whether you pick up after your pup? Everyone's actions
every day can make the difference. Here are 12 ideas to get
you started, but don't stop there!
1. Survey your home. Before
we can come up with solutions,
we have to know the problems.
Use the survey at the end of
this booklet to see how you and
your family rate and how you
can help be part of the solution
instead of part of the problem.
2. Conserve water—inside and
out. By conserving the amount
of water we use, we reduce the
amount that needs to be treated.
• Check to see if your toilets
are leaking. Squirt a couple
drops of food dye into the
top of the tank and wait a
few minutes to see if the dye
shows up in the toilet bowl. If
it does, you've got a leak.
• Help your family install low-
flow devices for your showers
and toilets that reduce the
amount of water used.
• Water the lawn early in
the morning or in the eve-
ning to reduce evaporation
and increase the amount the
plants drink. Make sure the
sprinkler isn't also watering
the driveway or sidewalk.
3. Love your lawn—naturally.
Ask your parents to convert
some of the grassed areas in
your yard into natural areas.
This eliminates the need for
fertilizers, provides habitat for
birds and animals, and frees
up your time from mowing the
lawn. Where you do have to
mow, leave the grass clippings
on the lawn to provide natural
fertilizer to the grass, and let the
grass grow to at least 3 inches
before you cut it.
4. Build a com-
post pile. Com-
posting yard and
food wastes is a
great way to make
your own organic
fertilizer and reduce
waste that goes into
landfills. Be sure to
keep meat and dairy
products out of your
compost pile—they can
attract rodents. Call
more information on backyard
conservation or go to
www.nrcs.usda.gov and click on
5. Take a day off each week
from using cars. Many of the
metals and pollutants that wash
into streams come from our
cars—copper from brake pads,
cadmium from tires, oil from
the crankcase. Get your whole
family involved. Ride bikes,
walk, or take public transporta-
tion at least one day a week.
Convince your parents to treat
to you to a movie with all the
money they save in gas.
6. Stop storm drain pollution.
Those hollow drains along your
curb are meant to carry storm
water off the street during heavy
rains. Chances are that whatever
goes into a storm drain winds
up in your local stream. Storm
drain stenciling is a good way
to let others know not to dump
anything down there such as
oil, leaves, pet waste, grass clip-
pings, or cigarette butts. Pro-
duce and distribute a door
hanger or flyer for local house-
holds to make them aware of
project and remind them that
storm drains dump directly
to the local waterbody. Visit
www. earthwater-stencils. com
for more information on how
to do a storm drain stenciling
7. Dispose of hazardous 9. Participate in the Interna-
wasteproperly. We're not talk- tional Coastal Cleanup. The
ing about drums of nuclear annual event is sponsored by the
waste. We're talking car bat- Center for Marine Conservation
teries, solvents, pesticides and every September. For more infor-
cans of oil-based paint. Contact mation call (800) CMC-BEACH
your local waste or visit www. one-ocean, org.
10. Get informed. Knowledge
is one of die
/ most powerful
Find out all
you can about
shed. What are
" the boundaries?
| Where does
I your drinking
from? How is it
treated? Get a copy of your
state's water quality report
find out the major water quality
issues in your area. A good
starting place is EPA's Water-
shed Information Network at
11. Enter the River of Words
Poetry and Art Contest.
Co-sponsored by the Library
of Congress and United
States Poet Laure-
collection facility to
find out how to handle these
materials. Many facilities have
free collection days when you
can bring in these materials
8. Adopt a stream. Find out
if there is a volunteer monitor-
ing organization or watershed
group in your community—and
join it. If not, start one as part
of your science class or other
local organization. Check out
EPA's web site (www.epa.gov/
adopt) for a list of watershed
groups in your community.
Read EPA's brochure Getting
Started in Volunteer Monitoring
ate (1995-1997) Robert Haas,
the River of Words Poetry and
Art Contest seeks to foster
responsibility, imagination and
action in young people and
to publicly acknowledge their
creativity and concerns. Visit
www.riverofwords.org, send an
email to email@example.com,
or call (510) 548-POEM.
12. Spread the word. Once
you've learned about your
watershed and its major water
quality issues, tell others. Make
a presentation in your school.
Write an article for your school
or community newspaper. Orga-
nize an environmental fair
at your school. Contact the
Water Environment Federation
at 1-800-858-4844 for a guide
on hosting a watershed festival.
The Groundwater Foundation
(1-800-858-4844) also has sev-
eral guides on hosting water
festivals, including Making More
Waves: Ideas from Across the U.S.
and Canada for Organizing Your
There's a wcf h<M fo -fiiis ma<toess:
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How to use the scientific method!
' projects that you can <
The following pages contain _^
starting any of them, check with your parent or teacher first. These projects are designed
to increase your awareness and concern for the environment. Make sure you share what you
learn with your family and friends.
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Scientists use the scientific method to solve problems. For each of the projects listed in this
report follow the same steps:
State your hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a
statement that pre-
dicts what you think
tions about what
State your conclusion. "Was
' your hypothesis incorrect? "
What have you fearneBT,"
based on the information
Science Project - The Wonders of Wetlands
Build a Working Wetland Model
a 2 large aluminum roasting pans
a Modeling clay
a Ground pepper
a Twigs, branches
Background: Wetlands are amazing natural areas that are in between deep open water
and dry land. Sometimes it is easy to see the water in a wetland. X\t
other times the wetness lies just below the surface of the soil, where
the plant roots grow. Maybe you think of wetlands as swamps, bogs, or
marshes-muddy places that smell like rotten eggs, are full of mosquitos
and leave your sneakers caked in muck. Maybe you think of them as cool
places full of turtles, frogs, and birds.
Wetlands provide more benefits than most people realize. First, wetlands
provide nurseries and homes for birds, fish, reptiles, insects, amphibians,
and mammals. Wetlands also can filter out pollutants before they reach
the stream. Wetlands can slow down the flow of waters to reduce the
chances of flooding and protect areas from erosion. Finally, wetlands
provide opportunities for recreational activities such as canoeing and
birdwatching. When you finish this experiment, you will be better able to
understand how wetlands are beneficial to our environment.
Hypothesis: State a hypothesis about the ability of a wetland to filter pollutants and
soak up excess water. Give reasons for your hypothesis.
Experiment: In the first roasting pan make a model of a wetland. Build the wetland
using materials such as sand, clay, carpeting, and twigs (hey, be creative).
Leave the other pan empty. Raise both pans at one end approximately 2
inches. Measure equal amounts of water. Pour the water over the wetland
pan and into the empty pan. Observe and record what you see. How long
did it take the water to settle in the end of the pans? How much water
was in the lower end of both pans?
Repeat the experiment several times. Each time, add more and different
materials to the empty pan. Observe and record how long it takes the
water to travel to the ends of the pans. Which materials soaked up the
Repeat the experiment with your wetland pan adding pepper to the water.
Observe and record how much pepper ends up at the end of the pan. What
happened to the remaining pepper?
Conclusion: What conclusions can you draw from this project? In what
ways are wetlands beneficial to an ecosystem?
Science Project - From the Rain to the Drain
Measure changes in pH as water goes from your house to a stream
Materials: Q 4 clean containers to collect water samples (cut the tops off empty
plastic !-gallon milk containers)
pH testing kit (ask your science teacher where you can get a kit)
Background: As rainwater falls and moves across your yard, down the driveway, and
into a storm drain, it picks up pollutants. These pollutants come from
many sources such as the exhaust from our cars, fertilizers on our lawns,
dirt from bare patches, and wastes from our pets. These pollutants can
affect the pH of the water, making it more acidic. pH is the measure of
how acidic or basic a solution is. Changes in pH can affect how chemicals
dissolve in the water and whether organisms can use these chemicals to
grow. Most aquatic organisms prefer a pH range of 6.5-8.0
Hypothesis: State a hypothesis about how the pH readings of your water samples will
change as the water flows from your yard down to a storm drain. Record
Experiment: Identify four sampling locations starting at the highest point (hopefully
near your house) and ending in a storm drain. Measure the distance
between your sampling locations, and space the locations at least 30 feet
apart (or measure 30 paces with your feet). Leave the first container
outside your door to collect rainwater. Laying each container on its side,
collect the runoff from the other three locations. Test the pH of each
container and record your findings. Repeat the sampling two more times on
different days. Each time record the number of days since the last rain
event before you sampled.
Plot your measurements on a graph with the pH concentration on one axis
and the sampling location (distance from your house) on another axis.
Conclusion: Does the pH in the water samples increase, decrease, or stay the same?
What conclusions can you make about the changes in the pH from your
house to the storm drain? How do you think these changes affect the
pH level of the river water? Did the pH level change from one rain event
to another? What do think are the major sources of pollutants in the
Science Project - Watershed Awareness Campaign
Background: Clean, healthy watersheds depend on an "informed public" to make choices
that help the environment. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are poured
into education campaigns each year to make communities aware of the
sources of water pollution in their watershed and what can be done
to prevent these problems. Marketing firms conduct research on their
markets before they develop an ad campaign. They identify their markets,
find out what messages appeal to them, and then develop ways to get
the messages out.
Conduct your own research to gauge the awareness of your community on
watershed issues, and design a marketing campaign to improve awareness
of the issues.
Hypothesis: State a hypothesis about the current understanding of watershed issues
in your community. Predict which audiences are the most informed and
which messages you think will appeal to which audiences.
List of questions
Experiment: Identify at least three different audiences from which to gather
information on watershed issues (for example, students in grades 6-9,
homeowners, local elected officials). Develop a 1- or 2-page interview form
to ask questions that will help you determine their level of knowledge on
various issues. (For example, do they know what a watershed is? Where
does their drinking water come from?) [Hint: Use some of the questions
on the Test Your Water Smarts in this report to get you started.]
Determine how you will get the information. (During lunch period?
Stopping people at the grocery store? After a board of supervisors
meeting?) After you collect and analyze the information, develop a
campaign to address the major gaps of knowledge in your community and
outline strategies to fill in these gaps (a watershed fair, articles in the
local newspaper, etc.). Show examples of materials you would use to get
the message out.
Conclusions: What audiences were the most informed about watershed issues? Which
messages appealed to the different audiences? How did the different
audiences get their information on watershed issues?
This is just a starting point. There's a ton of information out there about the water
quality in your state and who's doing what to protect it. Thanks to the cyber world,
much of this information is only a mouse click away. Dig in to find out
what the water quality is like in your local watershed and what you can
do to make a difference.
in hands-on activities, making
science applicable and relevant
to their lives. To get more
information on activities you
can do in your state/
community go to www.adopt-
and click on your state. You
can also call (530) 628-5334
for a list of contacts for your
Coastal Cleanups (www.cmc-
ocean.org). Visit this site or call
the Center for Marine Conser-
vation at 1-800-CMC-Beach for
information about beach clean-
ups or to participate in the
annual International Coastal
Earth Force (G.R.E.E.N)
Earth Force is youth driven.
Through Earth Force, kids dis-
cover and implement lasting
solutions to environmental
issues in their community.
In the process they develop
mental stewardship. For
more information, call (703)
299-9400 or visit the web site
at www.earthforce. org.
Earthwater Stencils. Their
mission is to foster public
Use the government pages of
your telephone book to locate
addresses and phone numbers
of local agencies in your com-
munity or state. The following
list includes some of the orga-
nizations that may be helpful
Department of Agriculture
Department of Health
Department of Natural
Soil and Water
Waste Water Departments
1-800-RECYCLE. You can
call anytime to get infor-
mation on how and what
Adopt-A-Watershed uses a local
watershed as a living labora-
tory in which students engage
and support for stormwater
pollution prevention. This is
community-based storm drain
stenciling and related pro-
grams in local watersheds.
For more information, call
(360) 956-3774 or visit
EPA Safe Drinking Water
Act Hotline (1-800-426-4791).
You can call this number to
report problems or to get infor-
mation on safe drinking water
EPA Wetlands Helpline
(1-800-832-7828). You can
obtain free fact sheets, coloring
books, and other useful materi-
als on wetlands.
Global Learning and Obser-
vations to Benefit the Envi-
ronment (GLOBE) is a
worldwide network of stu-
dents, teachers, and scientists
working together to study and
understand the global environ-
ment. GLOBE students make
environmental observations at
or near their schools and
report their data through the
Internet. For more information
on getting Involved, call 1-800-
858-9947 or visit GLOBE'S web
Izaak Walton League of
America's Save Our Streams
program provides educational
material on stream and wetland
sos or call 1-800-BUG-IWLA.
National Wildlife Federa-
tion's Backyard Wildlife Hab-
itat program shows you how
to help save a place for
wildlife in your own backyard.
Project WET is
a nonprofit water
gram for educators and young
people, grades K-12, located on
the Montana State University
campus in Bozeman, Montana.
The goal of Project WET is to
facilitate and promote aware-
ness, appreciation, knowledge,
and stewardship of water
resources. At project WET's
wwwwet) you can get more
information from the contact in
your state (see the State Project
WET Program Coordinator list)
or call (406) 994-5392.
River of Words Poetry and
Art Contest. The River of
Words Contest is a national
poetry and poster contest for
grades K-12 that invites chil-
dren to explore their own
watershed, discover its impor-
tance in their lives, and express
what they learned, felt and saw
in words or images. For more
information on entering the
next River of Words contest,
or call (510) 848-1155.
River Network keeps a
directory of river and water-
shed conservation groups. Visit
The Groundwater Founda-
tion is a nonprofit organization
dedicated to teaching the
public about the conservation
and management of ground
water. For more information,
or call 1-800-858-4844.
Federation. Contact WEF
for information on hosting a
watershed festival. Call 1-800-
50 Simple Things Kids Can Do
to Save the Earth by Earth-
works Group. This book shows
kids how specific elements of
their environment (like a light
switch or a toilet) are con-
nected to the rest of the world.
The book provides practical
tips to kids on how they can
conserve energy, recycle waste,
and take on important environ-
mental projects. Available in
Whether you have acres in
the country, an average-
sized suburban yard, or
a tiny plot in the city,
this booklet can show
you things you can do
to the land around your
home to help protect the
environment and add
beauty and interest to your
surroundings. Tip sheets and
this colorful 28-page booklet
on Backyard Conservation are
available free by calling 1-888-
LANDCARE (single copies
only). You can also visit the
web site atwww.nrcs.usda.gov.
Earth Book for Kids: Activi-
ties to Help Heal the Envi-
ronment by Linda Schwartz,
Beverly Armstrong (Illustrator).
This book contains arts and
crafts projects, experiments,
and experiences that encourage
children to enjoy and heal the
environment. The book covers
acid rain, endangered wildlife,
pesticides, energy, recycling,
pollution, landfills, rain forests,
water conservation, and related
topics. Available in bookstores.
Getting Started in Volunteer
Monitoring. A brochure intro-
ducing volunteer monitoring and
how to get involved. Visit die
EPA web site atwww.epa.gov/
Girl Scout Water Drop Patch
Project. The purpose of this
project is to encourage girls to
make a difference in their com-
munities by becoming water-
shed and wetlands stewards.
For more information or to
obtain a copy of the booklet,
call the National Service
Center for Environmental
Publications (NSCEP) at
visit the web site at
patch. Don't forget to
give them the EPA
document number when order-
Give Water a Hand Activity
This guide provides informa-
tion for youth about water-
sheds and ways to protect and
National Water Quality Inven-
tory: Report to Congress.
This report includes infor-
mation about the condition
of our nation's waters. Visit
www.epa.gov/305b or contact
the National Service Center
for Environmental Publications
(NSCEP) at 1-800-490-9198.
Splosh (CD-ROM). This inter-
active tool provides information
on nonpoint source pollution. For
more information, contact the
Conservation Technology Informa-
tion Center at (765) 494-9555.
Turning the Tide on Trash:
A Learning guide on Marine
Debris. Call the National Ser-
vice Center for Environmental
Publications (NSCEP) at 1-800-
490-9198 or visit the web site
Waters to the Sea: Rivers
of the Upper Mississippi
(CD-ROM). This interactive
tool presents fundamental con-
cepts of ecology, the water
cycle, and watershed hydrology.
The cost is $39.95 plus ship-
ping and handling. For more
information, contact the Center
for Global Environmental Edu-
cation at (651) 523-2480.
i/Oeb S»f es
Environmental Issues. This web
site contains information on
environmental issues, where to
get free environmental mate-
rials (CDs and posters), kids'
stuff (fun and games), clip art,
environmental news, online
environmental mapping, and
other links to environmental
Hey Kids, Its Time to Take
Action. All types of recycling
programs and information for
kids from the American Forest
and Paper Association. One
feature of the site lists 20 ways
to reuse a paper grocery bag.
At this site, you can find
reports on the quality of our
nation's waters, including sum-
maries for your state.
EPA's Explorer's Kids Club. Pro-
vides information and activities
for kids to become familiar with
the environment and what they
can do to make a difference.
EPA's Volunteer Monitoring
Homepage. At this web site
you'll find information on vol-
unteer monitoring, including a
directory of U.S. programs and
documents on how to monitor.
Locate Your Watershed. Using
the Watershed Information
Network, you can check out
local water conditions, find
out about watershed training
opportunities, identify volun-
teer monitoring and watershed
programs to get involved in, or
connect with federal and state
This web site is loaded with
information for kids of all
ages, including projects, exper-
iments, educational materials
Watershed Information Net-
work. You can get information
on your watershed from this
MSNBC's Earth Dog. Checkout
this web site to learn more
about environmental issues
from this canine crusader. This
web site includes articles on
various environmental prob-
lems throughout the world and
offers tips on how you can
improve our world's natural
Test Your Water Smarts
Take this quiz (don't worry, you won't get graded) to test your water smarts. Then give the
quiz to your family and friends to test their knowledge on water quality. We can't solve all
these problems if people don't know they exist. Be the ball
1. True or false. Watersheds are
located mainly in mountainous regions
with high rainfall.
2. Circle the correct answer. Most of
the pollutants entering our waters
come from the following sources:
A. Wastewater treatment plants
B. Runoff from fields and
C. Factories along rivers
3. True or false. Students can join
organizations to help monitor their
4. True or false. Dirt, bacteria, and
nutrients are the most common
pollutants in our waters.
5. True or false. Leaves should be
raked down a storm drain so they can
decompose in the stream and provide
food for the fish.
6. True or false. To test if your toilet
is leaking, you can squirt a couple
drops of food dye in the top of the
tank and wait a few minutes to see if
the dye shows up in the toilet bowl.
7. Circle the correct answer. The
following organizations monitor the
quality of our waters:
A. Volunteer organizations,
including kids like you
B. State, local and tribal agencies
C. The federal government
D. All of the above
8. Circle the correct answer. Nutrients
that enter our waters come from
the following sources:
A. Leaking septic systems
B. Excess fertilizers washing off
C. Pet waste
D. All of the above
9. What percentage of rivers and
streams assessed in the most recent
national water quality report scored
a GOOD rating, meaning the waters
fully supported their designated uses?
How do you rate?
More than five wrong: Uh oh. Better read this report again!
3 to 5 wrong: You've gotta do better than that if you're going to make a difference. Check
out some of the web pages listed on page .
1 to 3 wrong: Pretty good. Find the correct answers and start spreading the word.
0 wrong: Excellent! You've got the smarts to be an environmental champion. Now, go out
there and make a difference!
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To improve your home's environmental friendliness, you need to know where you and your family
stand on the environmentally-friendly meter. Please answer the questions below and then calculate
your score. If some questions don't apply to you, try answering them anyway, using good ol'
common sense (lots of us don't have yards, garages, or dogs!).
Your family runs the dishwasher and washing machine
a. Only when they're full
b. When they are about half full
c. When they have only a few items in them
Your house has low-flow devices (which use less water than standard devices) in the
Bathroom sink (number )
Shower (number )
Toilets (number )
Take a look at all of the faucets in your house. How many leak?
Your family recycles
When you look into your garage or shed, you see
a. No cans of paint, fertilizer, yard chemicals, or car batteries. Your family recycles
them at the local hazardous waste facility.
Bonus: Where is the facility located?
b. One can of paint, but your family is redecorating and it will be used
c. Plenty of cans of paint, fertilizers, chemicals, and old car batteries.
d. No cans of paint or old car batteries. Your family threw them away in the regular
When you look at the floor of your garage and/or driveway, you see
a. No oil or chemical stains
b. A few drops of oil or chemicals
c. A lovely collage of chemical stains and leaked oil
7. If yoM have a family dog, whoever walks it
a. Always picks up after the pooch
b. Sometimes picks up after the pooch
c. Never picks up after the pooch, except when someone steps in it
8. Describe how your family deals with your lawn
a. Constantly fertilizes, spreads chemicals for weed and bug control,
and waters it like crazy. Your parents pay more attention
to the lawn than to you!
b. Hires a lawn care company to do everything in choice "a"
c. Fertilizes infrequently, uses little or no chemicals for weed and bug
control, and waters occasionally in the early morning or late afternoon
d. Your "lawn" only has native grasses and plants (native means that the plants grow
naturally in your area of the country and usually don't require any watering or
fertilizers), and your family removes the weeds by hand (really)
9. Your yard is mostly:
a. Patches of dirt and/or a patio
b. Grass, shrubs, flowers, trees, and pervious (water absorbing) surfaces
10. Your family disposes of yard waste (leaves and grass clippings) by
a. Throwing it into the nearby pond or stream
b. Raking it into the storm drain
c. Collecting it to be recycled by the town or county public works department
d. Composting it and using it in the garden or planting beds
11. If you have a stream or pond in your yard or neighborhood, you see
a. A healthy watercourse with lots of fish and with vegetation, like overhanging
trees and shrubs, along the edge
b. No sign offish and has mowed grass or impervious surfaces right along the edge
c. No water because that's where you dump your trash
12. If you have a septic system
a. When was the last time that it was pumped?
b. By whom?
Mom Nature thinks that you're pretty cool for doing this survey. Give yourself 5 points to
1. To be most efficient with water and energy, the dishwasher and washing machine
should only be run when they're full.
a. add 3 points
b. subtract 1 point
c. subtract 3 points
2. Low-flow devices can save lots of water, plus there will be less water to
clean at the water treatment plant.
* add 1 point for every low-flow device in your house
3. Water conservation is always environmentally friendly. Leaking water faucets
waste precious water.
subtract 2 points for each leaky faucet
4. Recycling is good for the environment. Recycling materials into useful
products uses less energy and water than using new natural resources.
a. add 2 points
b. add 2 points
c. add 2 points
d. add 2 points
5. Cans of oil-based paint and old car batteries should never be put into the regular
trash. They are a hazardous waste and should be recycled by a special facility.
a. add 5 point :
BONUS add 10 points (good for you!)
b. add 3 points
c. subtract 3 points
d. subtract 5 points
6. When it rains or you hose down the garage, oils and other gunk on the floor
of the garage or driveway will be washed into a storm drain that leads into
a stream. That's bad news for the fish and other critters living in the stream.
a. add 5 points
b. add no points
c. subtract 5 points (A collage of oils and chemicals is certainly NOT art!)
7. Pet waste should always be picked up and put into the trash or flushed down the
toilet. If left on the ground, it can wash into a storm drain or directly into a stream.
a. add 5 points
b. add 1 point
c. subtract 5 points (Ewwwww! That's gross!)
8. Lawns should be fertilized sparingly, and weed and bug chemicals applied only
when absolutely necessary. Native plants need little care and often provide
improved habitat for animals. If the lawn is fertilized too much, the excess
fertilizer will just wash into a storm drain or directly into a stream.
a. subtract 3 points
b. subtract 5 points
c. add 3 points
d. add 5 points
9. When it rains, the runoff picks up dirt from bare patches in the yard and
washes it into a storm drain or directly into a stream. Dirt can clog fish
gills, smother stream critters, and change the flow of water in the stream.
A yard with lots of bare patches and impervious surfaces is bad news!
a. subtract 5 points
b. add 5 points
10. Composting or recycling leaves and grass clippings creates new topsoil. Yard waste should
never be thrown into the regular trash or any other sensitive area such as a wetland
or stream. Too many leaves and grass clippings can clog up those sensitive areas and
add too many nutrients. Yard waste clogs storm drains and ends up in our waterways.
a. subtract 5 points
b. subtract 5 points
c. add 5 points
d. add 5 points
11. A "buffer area" is an area with many plants along a streambed. A buffer area filters
pollutants such as phosphorus and dirt out of rainwater before it enters the stream
or pond. A buffer area also shades the water to keep it cool for the critters in
the summer. And as we learned, cool water holds more oxygen than warm water.
a. add 5 points
b. add no points
c. subtract 5 points (Try using a trash can!)
12. Septic systems require maintenance, such as regular pumping of the tank every few years.
a. add 5 points if it was within the past three years
subtract 5 points if it was over 5 years ago
b. add 5 points if it was by a certified contractor
subtract 5 points if it was by your Uncle Bob ^_ _^ //
V\owj tfafure f Wnks of your score...
50 points or more
You and your family are environmentally friendly! Mom Nature is really proud of you! Keep
up the good work!
20 to 50 points
You and your family are really close to environmentally friendly. Mom Nature is pleased, but
she would like you to do a bit better.
negative points to 20 (eek!)
Mom Nature is pretty upset and wants you and your family to go to your rooms and reread
this report until you learn more about protecting the environment!
Technically Speaking - Glossary of Terms
Algal bloom: a sudden, excessive growth of
algae in a waterbody.
Clarity: a measure of the amount of particles
suspended in water; determined by using a
secchi disk or turbidity test.
Designated use: the desired use a waterbody
should support (like fishing or swimming).
Dissolved oxygen (DO): the amount of oxygen
dissolved in water. The amount is usually
expressed in parts per million (ppm) or mil-
ligrams per liter (mg/L).
Estuary: the area where the fresh water of a
river meets and mixes with the salt water of
Fecal coliforms: a group of organisms found
in the intestinal tracts of people and animals.
Their presence in water usually indicates pollu-
tion that may pose a health risk.
Ground water: the supply of fresh water that is
found under the earth's surface in underground
rock formations or soil.
Impervious surface: A paved or other hard
surface that does not allow water to penetrate.
Livestock operation: a facility that raises ani-
mals such as cows, sheep, or hogs. Fecal coli-
forrn bacteria are present in livestock waste.
Macroinvertebrate: organism that lacks a
backbone and is large enough to be seen with
the naked eye.
Meandering stream: one that follows its natu-
ral course creating winding curves.
National Water Quality Inventory: a report
EPA prepares every 2 years summarizing infor-
mation from states about the quality of the
Nitrogen: a nutrient that is essential to plants
Nutrients: substances necessary for the growth
of all living things, such as nitrogen, carbon,
potassium, and phosphorus. Too many nutrients
in waterbodies can contribute to algal blooms.
Particulates: small pieces of material (such as
sand) floating in the water.
Pervious surface: A surface which allows water
to soak into it.
pH: a symbol for expressing the degree to
which a solution is acidic or basic. It is based
on a scale from 0 (very acid) to 14 (very basic).
Pure water has a pH of 7.
Phosphorus: a nutrient that is essential to
plants and animals.
Photosynthesis: The conversion of light energy
to chemical energy. At night, this process
reverses: plants and algae suck oxygen out of
Runoff: water from rain, snowmelt, or irriga-
tion that flows over the ground and returns
to streams. It can collect pollutants from air
or land and carry them to streams and other
Secchi disk: a black-and-white disk used to
measure the clarity of water. The disk is low-
ered into the water until it cannot be seen and
then the depth of the disk is measured.
Septic system: a system that treats and dis-
poses of household wastewater under the
Turbidity: a measure of the degree of clarity of
a solution. For cloudy water, turbidity would be
high; for clear water, turbidity would be low.
Watershed: the area of land that drains into a
Wetland: an area where water covers the soil
or is present either at or near the surface of
the soil all year (or at least for periods of time
during the year).