If you have lived in Odessa for more than a year, you realize that the chance of rainfall is slim to none. With annual rainfall averaging just below 14 inches a year, having a Division to monitor the quality of rain could seem a little pointless. So lets take some time to discuss the issues that come about with little rainfall.
Pollution Impedes Waterflow
We all have driven down the streets or walked down the sidewalk and noticed trash blowing in the wind or caught in a tree. The trash is not always in the same spot the next time we pass. So where did it go? The final destination for most trash is underlying low spots usually in culverts (small pipes underneath roads which allow nuisance flow to travel underneath roads away from traffic), ditches, swales, playa lakes or (most visible and unsightly) the limbs of trees. Even though the bags in the trees, bushes and fence lines are what we see the most it is the trash in the low spots that is most detrimental to our safety.
Over time these low spots which carry water during storm events become obstructed with trash which impedes the flow. This could cause localized flooding and unnavigable or dangerous roadways. It only takes a couple of feet of water to lift up and carry an automobile. For every one foot of water, roughly 1,500 pounds of the vehicle is displaced, and most vehicles traveling at 45 miles per hour will hydroplane with just one-tenth of an inch of ponding water. It is evident how dangerous nuisance water can be to drivers, but what about the quality of water?
For many of us living in Odessa, surface waters are far from where we sleep, and those that do live next to a surface water body probably never realize what parts of our daily activities are causing pollution to our environment. If you live next to a surface water body, odds are any fluids that leave your home and end up in your yard, driveway or sidewalk will eventually reach the surface of that body of water.
Activities That Lend to Stormwater Pollution
The following are activities that could possibly cause contamination to water:
- Blowing leaves and cut grass into the street
- Cleaning brushes after painting or seal coating wood fences and decks
- Disposing of household grease onto the ground in the back yard or next to the dumpster
- Not picking up pet waste
- Not picking up trash
- Over application of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
- Washing your car at home and working on your vehicles and equipment
For the rest of us we know that our runoff is not contaminating any surface water bodies since none are near our property or where we live. So is it ok to allow these activities to occur where you live?
How Pollution Ends up in Our Water
The truth is most people will not contribute to the pollutant load of surface waters in our City. However, we still must conserve the water quality that could potentially make it into our groundwater. Odessa has some water wells only 100 feet deep. Other regions may have to drill 400 – 500 feet before they reach usable water and some areas have been reported to have wells up to 1,000 feet deep. In Odessa water wells are closer to 150 feet deep, give or take a few feet. The fact that we have aquifers is evidence of water seeping into the ground.
So, whatever is in runoff that leaves our property or is discharged onto our yards has a real good chance of ending up in our ground water so long as it is small enough to pass through the voids between the soils. The rest ends up in low spots with ponding water susceptible to mosquitos and other insects, bacteria and animals. A cesspool for diseases which again could seep into ground water.
With drought conditions seeming to get worse with each year that passes and more people moving into the region, we must protect our most precious resource. Without clean water to drink, humans and other animals cannot survive.
Below are a few educational links for home owners, pet owners, automobile owners and a kids section to help individuals protect the environment they live in.