Summertime in Texas! One of our favorite ways to cool down on these long, hot summer days is to head to the river or lake.
Rivers and lakes depend on surrounding land (the watershed) for water supply. When the watershed is vegetated, rainfall can soak into the ground and be filtered prior to entering a water body. When the watershed is developed, impervious surfaces such as roofs, roads, and parking lots hinder the absorption of rainwater, causing it to become stormwater runoff. Disturbed land, such as during construction and agriculture, expose the soil, allowing sediment and pollutants to be rapidly transported from a site during a rain event. Because this stormwater runoff cannot be absorbed, it travels along streets and picks up pollutants, sediment, nutrients, and pesticides and deposits them into water bodies unfiltered.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates stormwater runoff from municipal, industrial and construction sites to maintain the water quality and reduce the pollutant loads entering water bodies. TCEQ requires the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to treat impacted stormwater prior to discharge to water bodies. These BMPs include berms and swales to redirect the stormwater away from disturbed/impervious areas; ponds to hold and treat accumulated stormwater; and silt fencing, rock berms, and native vegetation to filter the runoff water prior to discharge.
Stormwater pollutants are not just industrial. Homeowners can reduce their pollutant load by incorporating the following suggestions:
Use fewer pesticides/fertilizers on lawns
Avoid overwatering lawns
Pick up pet waste and trash
Use a rain barrel to reduce the amount of runoff from your property, as well as conserving water in times of drought
Use porous surfaces like gravel or pavers in place of asphalt or concrete
Redirect home downspouts onto grass or gravel rather than paved driveways or sidewalks
Maintain your automobile and repair leaks, and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries appropriately
Visit TakeCareOfTexas.org for more ideas
Areas of Texas are rapidly developing, and it is the job of every Texan to help maintain our water quality so we can all enjoy a day at our favorite water hole!
If We Don’t Conserve, We Will Be Fish Out of Water
Up to 60 percent of our bodies are made up of it, and our beautiful blue planet boasts over 70 percent of it—water—without it, we would cease to exist. Even though we live on the water planet, only 3.5 percent is fresh water. That is why it is so important to conserve this vital and life-giving resource.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, about 30 percent for outdoor uses, but in places like Texas, that number can skyrocket to 60 percent. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling to nearly 9 billion gallons per day.
Not only is water a precious natural resource, it is one that comes with a price tag. To reduce your household’s usage, plant native shrubs and vegetation that traditionally do not need a lot of water to thrive. Check out the EPA’s free guide to landscaping tips.
Another way to save water is from Mother Nature. Water harvesting offers an excellent source of high quality water for potable and non-potable use. Unlike groundwater pumping, rainwater harvesting does not use a lot of energy. Generally, rainwater is collected from a house’s roof and filtered into a storage container. One inch of rain can equate to more than 1,000 gallons of water on a 2,000-square-foot roof! You can use the online Texas A&M Rainwater Calculator to estimate how much rainwater you could collect at your house.
Looking for one small change that can make a big impact on reducing your home water usage? Swap out old toilets for new versions. The EPA says toilets are the main culprit of water usage in the home and account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Older toilets can use as much as 6 gallons per flush. By installing new, efficient toilets, you can save nearly 5 gallons per flush that translates to a yearly savings of $110 and 13,000 gallons of water!
By incorporating native plants in your landscape, collecting rainwater, and installing new toilets, we can all reduce our water footprint.
Happy Independence Day! Ever wonder how all those wonderful patterns and colors are made? Rocks.
More specifically, minerals. Certain kinds of minerals. Much like painting or sometimes even using crayons, the mixing of minerals and mineral compounds creates additional colors. For example:
Bright Greens – barium
Deep reds – strontium
Blues – copper
Yellows – sodium
Brilliant Orange – strontium
Silver White – titanium, zirconium and magnesium
Purple – copper and strontium
As with colors, certain effects are also created by combining certain minerals. Each mineral has specific physical characteristics and behaves differently under heat or other conditions. Iron fillings and some charcoals make gold colored sparks when subjected to heat. Magnalium (magnesium-aluminum alloy) can produce a small series of tiny silvery-white flashes. Larger chunks, like granules or flakes, make the effect last longer.
Fireworks were discovered in ancient China. The understanding and know-how of fireworks has progressed tremendously over the centuries. Although fireworks are an absolute wonder to watch and sometimes use, safety first must be the requirement. Some of those flash effects we just discussed? The temperature at which some of those reactions occur can be in excess of 700 degrees. Some of the most costly accidents, in terms of life, occur in firework factories.
Just like most everything else in our everyday lives, we couldn’t have fireworks without mining. Having said that, what is there in our everyday lives that does NOT come from mining?
As summer temperatures spike, it’s more important than ever to stay cool on the job. OSHA emphasizes three key words during summer: water, rest, and shade. Here are some OSHA-approved tips for how to stay cool in hot weather while working outside:
Water is not an option—workers should consume at least 8-15 ounces of cool water every 20 minutes and avoid energy and caffeinated drinks. OSHA suggests drinking about a quart an hour.
Avoid frequent in and out actions of air-conditioned environments. That said, if you feel overheated, take a break and look for shade or A/C to stabilize your core temperature and revitalize your body.
Wear light colored, loose-fitting clothing that wicks away sweat and heat from the body while blocking harmful UV rays. Check out cooling apparel – vests filled with liquid designed to stay cool and are stored in a freezer or hard hats with cooling systems built in. Or you can go old-school by using wet bandanas from the freezer. Keep a few in your ice chest on the job site and rotate them throughout the day.
Adjust the construction schedule. Strenuous and hotter jobs should be scheduled in early mornings or late evenings.
Many Texans and those in warmer climates have high heat tolerances, but it is best to know what the heat index is to protect yourself and your team. Download OSHA’s app at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html to monitor heat indexes and give reminders about protective actions to take.