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Source Water Protection

A watershed is the area of land drained by a particular stream or river system. An aquifer is any underground rock or sediment formation that holds enough water to supply a well. Wallingford utilizes both of these types of sources of supply to meet its needs.

In order to protect the quality of water entering our reservoirs, the Water Division annually conducts a watershed survey by visual inspection of all premises within our watershed area. Of concern are the operation of on-site sewage disposal systems, animal keeping activities, erosion and other potential sources of pollution that may harm the quality of our water supply and environment.

It is everyone's responsibility to protect water sources from pollution. Through our everyday activities, we all cause water pollution without realizing it. The exhaust and oil from driving cars, materials washed down drains or flushed down the toilet, pet wastes, fertilizers and pesticides used in yards, all contribute to water pollution.

Making simple changes in our everyday activities can help reduce some types of pollution. For example:

  • Conserving water both saves money and helps septic systems or the local sewage treatment plant remove pollutants more effectively
  • Choosing non-toxic alternatives for household cleaning products reduces water pollution, cleaning bills, and our exposure to hazardous materials
  • Rethinking landscaping and gardening practices reduces the need for pesticides, fertilizer, and irrigation, thus reducing the potential for contaminating local waters

These are just a few examples of personal efforts that protect water quality. Learning what pollutes water is a step toward living consciously to reduce pollution. There are six major types of pollutants that affect water quality. Some present local human problems, but others can damage the entire ecosystem.

  • Sediment: Dirt and sand are natural substances that become pollutants when they end up in the water in excessive quantities. Sediment changes the shape of streambeds, smothers feeding and nursery areas of aquatic animals, and carries other pollutants into the water. Erosion from poorly managed construction sites, agricultural fields, or suburban gardens are major sources of sediment pollution. Another major source is road sand applied to improve winter driving conditions.
  • Debris: Non-degradable trash, mostly plastic, when carelessly disposed of, will often end up in a nearby water body. Humans find it ugly, as well as hazardous when it entangles boat propellers. Aquatic animals can also become entangled, or mistake plastic for food, and strangle or starve.
  • Pathogens: Pathogens are the bacteria and viruses that cause disease. They generally come from fecal material from humans and their pets, or from wild animals and birds. When the potential concentration of pathogens in the water exceeds certain limits, areas must be closed to shell fishing or swimming in order to prevent infections or disease outbreaks. Major sources of pathogens include: failing septic systems, leaky sewer lines, and concentrations of animal waste from pets, farm animals or wildlife.
  • Nutrients: Materials that are necessary for plant growth, primarily forms of nitrogen or phosphorus, are known as nutrients. When too many nutrients end up in an aquatic system, they alter the natural plant community and can cause massive plant growth known as algal "blooms" which deplete oxygen concentrations in the water. Excess nitrates in drinking water have been linked to human health problems, including heart conditions and birth defects.
  • Thermal Pollution: During summer months, thermal pollution can make the water in critical aquatic habitats too warm for sensitive native plants and animals to survive, as well as allowing the spread of non-native species. Overheated water can result from the removal of vegetation that shaded the stream, runoff from hot roofs and parking lots, or the collection of water in shallow unshaded ponds.
  • Toxic Contaminants: Many of the tens of thousands of chemicals in use today are harmful to both humans and aquatic organisms. Some of these chemicals can be passed through the food chain and concentrate in top predators (like humans). Extremely small concentrations of some toxic materials in the water can kill the eggs and larvae of many animals. Sources of toxic contaminants range from the exhaust and fluids that come from automobiles to the cleaning and disinfectant products used in homes to the pesticides used in yards, farms and parks.

(Information courtesy of Connecticut Sea Grant based at University of Connecticut.)