We take fresh water for granted. Every time we turn on the tap, we assume that a steady flow of the cold, clear, and life-sustaining liquid will appear. And it doesn't for now. But the seemingly never-ending sprawl of urban centers is threatening our supply of safe drinking water. When potable H2O becomes contaminated or scarce, plant life, animals and even humans become ill or die.

How does urbanization affect our water supplies?
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1. Pavement Steals Groundwater

  • Soil acts like a natural filtration system. When rain falls on an open field, for instance, it makes its way down through the ground. By the time it reaches the underground springs that we rely on for drinking water, it has been naturally cleansed.

  • When water is captured by pavement, it is unable to soak into the earth and replenish our groundwater supplies.
A Cuppa
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2. Pavement Breeds Toxins and Floods

  • When water falls on a non-porous surface like a parking lot, it actually becomes more contaminated. It gathers up all sorts of toxins, chemicals, oil, garbage, and animal waste and carries them right into the storm drains. From there, it is free to pollute waterways and take a deadly toll on fish and fauna and the creatures that rely on these for survival.

  • And during heavy rains, the large volume of water collected on these paved surfaces creates a torrent, which causes storm drains to overflow. As a result, streets and basements flood.
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3. Downspouts Are Evildoers Too

  • Your roof is also a huge, impermeable collector of rainwater and the downspout that carries your water away is a groundwater thief too. The downspout on an average house can drain roughly 12 gallons of water per minute during a one-inch rainfalls directly into storm drains. If you think of all of the roofs in your neighborhood, that equates to a lot of water being directed away from the natural water table.

  • The water that is being robbed from the water table winds up in the storm drains. Older sewage systems still make use of combined sewer overflows. This means that when the storm sewer is filled beyond its capacity, it mixes with wastewater and a mixture of both is spilled into local waterways. This kills aquatic animals, waterfowl, and plant life. It also floods basements and streets, makes lakes unsafe for swimming, and results in the closure of beaches.
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4. What Can You Do?

  • One of the most significant actions that you can take to restore our groundwater and keep our waterways clean is to disconnect your drainpipe. This will enable you to redirect melted snow and the rainwater from your gutters to your lawn or another porous surface, allowing it to undergo a natural cleansing and top up our water table.

  • For instructions on how to disconnect your gutters properly, contact your municipality, a professional, or conduct some online research.
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We live in a wonderfully diverse world where every living creature plays an important role in keeping the balance. Polluted lakes and rivers kill valuable players in our ecosystems. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that all life has access to clean water. And disconnecting your downspout is one easy fix that can make a huge difference.

What tips can you offer anyone who is considering disconnecting their downspout?