CORVALLIS - If you are like most Americans, you turn on the water tap in the morning and don't give it a second thought. Perhaps you should, especially next week, since May 3-9 is National Drinking Water Week.

Don't take clean drinking water for granted, as it is a precious natural resource that is becoming increasingly scarce, explained Gail Glick Andrews, water quality education specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Andrews offered some hints on ways we all can save and protect our drinking water.

Pay attention to water use in your bathrooms. "More water is used in the bathroom than any other place in the home," said Andrews. "Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and shave. Install low flow toilets, shower heads and faucets and you'll save thousands of gallons of water a year."

Fix drips and leaks. "A dripping faucet can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water per year," she said. "A leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons per day."

Dispose of household and automotive wastes properly. Take used motor oil, leftover paint, solvent and other toxic household products to municipal collection centers. To learn where to take your hazardous waste, call the Oregon Hazardous Waste Hotline at 1-800-732-9253 for the dates and locations of collection events in Oregon.

"Don't pour any toxic substance down the drain or in the trash; this can pollute the sources of our drinking water," said Andrews.

Be water conscious in the yard. Water during cooler times of the day and plant drought-resistant plants and lawns. Reduce your use of fertilizers and pesticides.

"Over half the average household water use is used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens," said Andrews. "Besides wasting water, overwatering encourages run-off of lawn chemicals that eventually reach our streams and rivers. Heavy irrigation may also promote leaching of lawn chemicals into the groundwater."

If you have a well, learn more about how to keep it clean and safe. "If you have a private well, you are responsible for insuring the safety of your own drinking water supply," stressed Andrews.

Request a copy of OSU Extension's brochure "Twelve Simple Things You Can Do to Protect Your Drinking Water" by contacting local county offices of the OSU Extension Service. Or you can view the brochure on the Extension and Station Communications Web site.

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Gail Glick Andrews, 541-737-6294