Health & Fitness

Dr. Wood: 7 things you can do to keep Thurston County’s water clean

Water quality depends on all of us -- and on activities you might not think are related to the water.
Water quality depends on all of us -- and on activities you might not think are related to the water. Olympian file photo

Good water quality is an essential part of every person’s life. Clean drinking water is necessary for us to maintain good health. Keeping our rivers, streams and Puget Sound healthy is important, not only for our local economy, but also for our health.

Research has shown that being in nature is good for our mental health, as well as for stress reduction. Most of us have a favorite park, river or beach spot where we take our loved ones or go to gather our thoughts and recreate. Healthy water quality is an important part of our overall health as people, and as a community. It’s also one reason why so many of us are grateful to live in this beautiful, water-rich region.

Because our water is a community resource, we all have to do our part to keep our water clean and healthy. Contaminants, hazardous chemicals and nutrients that run off of our roofs, roads, and lawns can end up in our rivers, lakes, the Sound or in our groundwater.

Luckily there are simple steps all households can take to help reduce negative impacts on our water:

  • Pick up after your pet. Pet waste can create harmful algae blooms in local waterways and carry viruses, bacteria and parasites that can cause illness in kids and adults. Pet waste should be bagged and placed into the garbage.
  • Inspect your septic system annually. Most septic tanks need pumping every 3-5 years. Regular inspections may show that you need to pump more or less often. All septic systems need to be pumped. How often depends on how many people live in the house, what types of products are used in the home, how big the system is, etc. Regular pumping keeps solids from getting into the drain field. Solids can destroy the drain field, which is an expensive repair. Hire a professional or learn how to inspect your system and get on a regular inspection and pumping schedule.
  • Take all unwanted household hazardous materials to HazoHouse. HazoHouse offers free disposal at 2420 Hogum Bay NE at the Waste and Recovery Center. Hazardous products are those that have labels with caution, warning, danger or poison as a signal word. They should be stored in a second container with a tight-fitting lid to prevent spills and leaks, and they can’t go into the regular trash.
  • Wash cars at a car wash to keep soap out of local waterways. If you must wash your car yourself, park on the grass instead of driveway so there is a chance for the soapy water to sink into the ground, where it can be filtered.
  • Use organic, slow-release fertilizers. Other fertilizers can run off, causing algae blooms from excess nitrogen in waterways.
  • Plant native plants to absorb and filter water. Native plants are a great landscaping choice because they don’t need extra watering after the first few years, should never need fertilizing or bug control, and will be resistant to disease.
  • Apply compost to soil and as a mulch. Organic matter like compost and other mulches help soils soak up more water.

Whether you want to protect drinking water, our beautiful natural environment, or both, we can all do our part to have a positive impact on water quality in Thurston County.

If you live in the Henderson or Nisqually Shellfish Protection Districts, contact Thurston Conservation District at 360-754-3588 ext. 105 or e-mail for more information on how to get free native plants, fertilizers and compost.

Regardless of what part of the county you live in, we can all be water-aware, and remember that maintaining clean healthy water is part of maintaining healthy bodies, healthy homes and a healthy community.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501,, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.