University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: Water Quality and the Home Landscape


Frequently Asked Questions

Topics:
Septic System Maintainence
Home Water Treatment

Hazardous Household Products
Nonpoint Source Pollution

Water Conservation

Septic System Maintainence

Q. I just purchased a house in the country that has a septic system. It seems to be operating fine and I'm wondering of there is anything I should be doing to keep things in working order?

A. By properly maintaining the system you wil be able to effectively and economically treat domestic wastewater from the house. Having your system inspected annually and pumped as needed, avoid using chemical and other additives, conserve water and compost kitchen wastes rather than using a garbage disposal.

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Home Water Treatment

Q. From time to time, I hear about contaminants in drinking water and worry about how they may affect my family. I have been thinking about buying a water purifier to protect our household from health risks from our well water. Is this a good idea?

A. First of all, it is important to know that Connecticut has high quality water in the state. This does not mean, of course, that there are no problems to be concerned about.  A key point to remember is that you cannot know for certain that you have any problem without the proper water tests. Begin by identifying areas of concern (ex. chemicals used near a well) then contact certified labs to conduct the tests. No one treatment system works for everything. Therefore, to get the right system, you need to know what the problem is.

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Hazardous Household Products

Q. Some years ago I participated in a local household hazardous waste collection day. I don’t seem to read much about these anymore. Are these products still a concern?

A. Yes. Many of the products that we use in and around our homes have chemicals that can be harmful if they enter our water supplies and systems. Communities and regions continue to sponsor collection days. Also, some regions in the state have permanent sites set up for collection of these products. For more information on proper disposal options in your community, contact your local town hall.

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Nonpoint Source Pollution

Q. Recently I read that many contaminants of concern to Connecticut’s water supplies come from residential properties. I can’t understand how that can be true.

A. Actually, it is true. This type of pollution is called nonpoint source pollution. This means that the pollution is coming from many different sources such as individual homes, not just a single outlet, thus making it difficult to regulate. Common sources of pollutants from private homes come from excessive or improper use of fertilizers and pesticides on lawns and gardens; improperly functioning septic system; pet waste and automobile fluids. Some changes in how we manage these activities and situations on our property collectively can have a significant impact on the quality of our water resources.

Q. What industry is responsible for using the greatest amount of fertilizer and pesticides? 

A. Contrary to popular opinion, it is neither golf courses nor agriculture. Studies have found that on a per acre basis, American homeowners use ten times more chemical fertilizers and pesticides than farmers use on agricultural land.  The message here is that more effective methods exist that can save time, money and protect our water while still producing a very acceptable product.  These include more appropriate management practices (fertilizer and pesticide use) for the landscape and use of native plants and low input turf alternatives such as fescues.   For more information, see the turf and native plants sections on this site. 

Q. I live adjacent to a pond and have a large lawn area that slopes to the water's edge. Is there anything I should be doing to prevent the pond from becoming polluted?

A. As the rainwater flows across the lawn in picks up various fertilizers and other materials before emtpying into the pond. Try to reduce the amount of lawn area by planting trees, shrubs and ground cover around the yard - especially adjacent to the pond and in shady areas where the grass is not growing very well. For more information please visit the article on Managing Runoff from Residential Properties.

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Water Conservation

Q. Our town oftentimes experiences water-use restrictions in the summer, most frequently related to outdoor water use (ex. watering). Just how much water does it really take when we water our lawns?

A. To water a 1,000 square foot section of lawn one inch per week uses approximetely 660 gallons of water. According to the US EPA, depending on the climate of the region, up to 75% of a home's water use during the growing season is for outdoor use. A good practice related to watering the lawn is to measure the amount of Mother Nature's watering (rain) and just water to make up the difference to one inch. Use a rain gauge or tuna can to keep track of precipitation over the course of the week.

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