A watershed is a territory that drains water into rivers and streams into a larger body of water such as a lake or ocean. It provides homes to numerous plants and wildlife, supplies the source of our drinking water, affords recreational opportunities, and allows for agricultural productivity. Who lives in a watershed? You do!

Everyone lives in watershed because water anywhere, including groundwater, drains into larger bodies of water: what happens on a watershed doesn’t stay on the watershed. So, before you start thinking about preservation for lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, it might be wise to first focus on protecting our community watersheds. Why? You wouldn’t start sweeping the stairs from the bottom up, would you? Watersheds are more important to your community than you may think!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), healthy watersheds are worth billions of dollars of food, tourism, manufactured products, and fiber. There are many factors such as urban and agricultural runoff that threaten watersheds, along with all other connected ecosystems. Big oil and drilling for oil can have devastating effects for watersheds. There are several OGP stories on oil spill incidents, so we know it must be a serious issue. How can you help reduce impacts of oil and drilling?

The Seemingly Obvious

1. Do not dump petroleum oil or other petroleum products down drains. Did you know that it would only take a quart of motor oil dumped down a storm drain to cause a two acre oil slick?! Perhaps that wasn’t so obvious.

2. It is important to properly maintain vehicles including car, boats, and other equipment to avoid oil leaks and spills. If you change your oil, recycle it either by using your community’s curbside recycling or you could use a household hazardous waste collection program.

3. While you’re at it, recycle everything you can and buy used instead of new products. Perhaps you aren’t aware of how many products, such as ink cartridges and traditional memory foam, use oil in their production…

Daily Simple Solutions

4. When finished filling up your gas tank at a gas station, do NOT pull the nozzle out of the gas tank right away and do NOT tap the nozzle against the gas tank before returning it to the pump. The goal is to not have oil leakage, but we also don’t want a static spark to be generated either, do we? Tip the handle upside down and back to safely avoid oil drips.

5. Reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic. Plastics are petroleum products. The United States consumes the most plastic water bottles in the world. Let’s stop this!

6. Be a conscientious consumer when purchasing cosmetics and toiletries by making sure the ingredients are all natural. Bet you didn’t know your beauty products could be made from petroleum oil!

7. Buy locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. Fertilizers and pesticides often use oil in their production. Plus, fertilizers and pesticides themselves pollute your community’s watershed.

8. Buy natural fiber clothing such as cotton or hemp instead of those made from oil derivatives, such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, and spandex.

Take Action

9. Write to your local, state, or federal government to voice your opinions against oil drilling and how it negatively affects your community. Inquire about encouraging renewable energy instead of subsidizing oil.

10. Join www.change.org to conveniently create or sign petitions against offshore drilling. You could also learn about fracking and sign anti-fracking petitions.

11. Start watershed protection campaigns and follow organizations such as Riverkeepers, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving the health of the Hudson River.

12. Volunteer for environmental organizations working against oil exploration or helping to clean oil spills.

Continue to Educate Yourself and Others

Now you are aware of ways oil can contaminate your watershed and how you can prevent contributing to oil pollution. Share all of what you have learned from this post and other OGP articles with friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone you meet. There are many documentaries available to learn more on oil drilling or the importance of community watersheds. You could also check out some more scary facts about oil spills by clicking here. Remember that the more people aware of the dangers of oil and oil drilling to watersheds, the more people there will be that care to take action and YOU could be the cause of a chain reaction of change.

So, now that you know you can be a part of the solutions, what will you do to protect your community’s watershed?

Image source: Adela Leiro/Wikimedia