Water pollution is bad for people and bad for the planet. We brandish statistics about contamination levels and criticize the people responsible. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know what all of this information means for us–the people living and playing near at-risk lakes, rivers, and streams.
A new mobile app designed by the EPA aims to make it easy for people to know and understand the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States. With the click of a button, the How’s My Waterway? app and website dishes up plain-language information about local water pollution incidents, what was found, and what is being done to clean them up.
Unlike many other public-facing government databases, the How’s My Waterway? app is surprisingly simple to use and understand. Simply enter a zip code (or allow the app to use GPS technology to determine your exact location) and search. The app will return a list of waterways within five miles of the search location. Each waterway is identified as unpolluted, polluted or unassessed. A map option offers the user a view of the search area with the results color-coded by assessment status.
(Warning: the results may be depressing. A search near my home zip code revealed that all waterways within five miles had been polluted at some point. Almost none had a clean-up plan).
Once a specific lake, river or stream is selected, the How’s My Waterway? app and website provides information on the type of pollution reported for that waterway and what has been done by EPA and the states to reduce it. Additional water quality reports and technical information is available for many waterways, including simple descriptions of each type of water pollutant, likely sources and potential health risks.